15 Lakh Cameras: Why Arvind Kejriwal’s Foolish Plan Will Bankrupt Delhi #AAPUnplanned

Arvind Kejriwal would have the people of Delhi believe that he will install 15 lakh CCTV cameras in the city if voted to power. Women’s safety is an important issue in Delhi. A promise like this sounds extremely intriguing — a 24x7x365 CCTV network would seriously improve safety in the city. Who wouldn’t feel comforted by that? But this noble aim has totally no basis in reality.

First, let’s look at basic economics.

A quick Google search reveals that you can get a basic surveillance camera for Rs. 1,279 on Amazon. A basic one, mind you. That’s almost Rs. 200 crores straight up for the basic hardware cost itself. Now, given the scale of the order, let’s assume that the government gets a good deal. Halve the MRP and you get Rs. 100 crore. (Not a small sum in any way.)

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You then need to factor in the following costs just to get the CCTV network operational:

  • Installation costs
  • Cost for network hardware and software infrastructure (since CCTV footage needs to be beamed to a server or servers to be of any use)
  • Server costs (not a pithy amount given the gigabytes of video data that are likely to be piped in)
  • Cost of Internet bandwidth to pipe footage to control rooms
  • Control room set up and operations

Straightaway, your costs escalate to the thousands of crores.

And if you don’t believe that figure, read this excellent article that lays out the details of Boston’s CCTV infrastructure. They’ve spent over $6 million — that’s over Rs. 372,581,700 — for less than 150 cameras.

On that scale, 15 lakh cameras will cost you Rs. 3,725,817,000,000. That’s Rs. 3.7 lakh crores.

To put that in perspective, the GDP of India in 2013 was Rs. 104.7 lakh crores. Delhi’s GDP for the same period was Rs. 4 lakh crores. (Source:Wikipedia). Also, Delhi’s total spending budget in 2013–14 was a measly Rs. 37,450 crore. (Source: delhi.gov.in). Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party will have us spending 3.5% of India’s GDP, or 91.5% of Delhi’s GDP, on CCTVs for Delhi.

So basically, Delhi will have barely anything left over to pay for roads, electricity, water, health and other things one would consider necessary for basic living. Let alone the rest of Kejriwal’s 70-point manifesto.

Forget the economics, lets say we have a miracle and get all the equipment for free. Is it still practical to be done in 5 years? It took Boston over 10 years to install 500 cameras. But Kejriwal and the AAP want to set up 15 lakh cameras in 5 years.

Now, assume we have (somehow) paid for these cameras. And also managed to come up with a feasible implementation plan. So let’s come to the next part of this ridiculous promise. What’ll it take to give us 24x7x365, real-time monitoring of the footage?

Delhi has 180 police stations and almost 100,000 policemen and policewomen. Assuming one cop can watch 10 cameras at a time, you’re talking about needing 1.5 lakh cops to monitor CCTV footage. And, assuming they can only do so for 8 hours a day, you need 3x that number — 4.5 lakh cops — to provide 24-hour monitoring. Which means CM Kejriwal needs to more than quadruple the size of the force to make his plan effective.

Where’s the money coming from?

More importantly, where are the people coming from?

And where are you going to seat them all? (Where’s the rent money coming from too, I ask.)

And, before making the promise, did Kejriwal ask Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the funding?

If you have answers to these questions, please do let me know. Or else, the next time you hear an Arvind Kejriwal promise, dig deeper.

This article has been updated to include Delhi’s 2013–14 budget and the time Boston took to set up 500 cameras.

I also wanted to include this post that values Mumbai’s 6000 cameras at Rs. 950 crore. Calculating in proportion, Delhi’s camera network works out to about Rs. 2.37 lakh crores. Even though it’s less than my original estimate, I believe the point still stands.

(This post originally appeared here)

@Samit


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