How do you ensure the safety and security of a ‘city’ of 80 lakh people that is constantly on the move? Ask Quaiser Khalid IPS, Commissioner of Police, Railways, Mumbai. Not only are all the passengers he is responsible for in a hurry to reach someplace, but crimes in his jurisdiction are often committed at one spot, detected at another and may be reported at a third location which may be hundreds of kilometres away.
Complainants do not have the time to deboard a train and lodge complaints. Crowds thin and swell throughout the day, presenting particular challenges during the pandemic. With multiple, intersecting railway lines to monitor and a staff spread thin over hundreds of kilometres, Commissioner Khalid spoke to Clean India Journal about his plans for using technology to better fulfill his responsibilities, the challenge of maintaining physical distancing in railway stations, using data analytics for passenger safety and how he tries to lead by example.
Overcrowding of passengers is a real threat during the pandemic. How did you ensure physical distancing at all times?
We screened passengers at every micro level, starting from screening for identity cards at ticket counters, then checking tickets at other entry points, followed by surprise checks by the commercial department staff. To communicate which category of people is permitted to travel, we reached out to people through various social media as well as through PA systems at various locations. We have rationalised entry and exit points at various stations, mostly restricting them to one on each side.
Once the restrictions are relaxed, we are anticipating a massive surge in commuter numbers from the current level of 30-35 lakh per day to about 70-80 lakh passengers per day. We need to bring in technology for booking tickets/passes online to avoid people coming to railway stations for the purchase of tickets.
The Government Railway Police (GRP) was a nodal agency for arranging transport of workers returning to their home states during both phases of lockdown. Our handling of the massive crowds during these public order management duties taught us valuable lessons which we incorporated in our strategy to handle such crowds.
These included use of thermal scanners at various important railway stations, segregation of crowd according to destination, increasing the number of starting points, online issuance of tickets, action against touts and other undesirable elements, collaboration with NGOs to arrange food and drink for passengers, segregation of timing of departure, availability of additional rakes for waitlisted passengers etc.
In the first lockdown in 2020, we were able to arrange railway transport for 15 lakh passengers while in 2021, we could do the same for over 53 lakh people.
Will AI-integrated camera software play a role in maintaining physical distancing in the future?
The CCTV network at various stations in Mumbai Railway Police Commissionerate area is being upgraded; this will include cameras with video analytics at selected locations. Such cameras will have an enhanced capability to identify, detect and generate alerts. The future of policing lies in integration of technologies to enhance the efficiency of the police force.
Artificial intelligence (AI) will be key to analyzing the metadata to identify hotspots of crime, trace passing runover cases, accidents spots, undesirable characters, public order situation, manpower planning and deployment, responses and direction of resources in crises etc. We are incorporating a number of technology initiatives to achieve these goals.
Passenger safety and security is at the core of GRP’s mandate. With such a vast area to monitor, how does technology help you extend your watch deeper into your territory?
Passengers safety is the most visible outcome of our policing initiatives. To ensure effective deployment of our resources over vast areas from Gujarat border to Mumbai and from Mumbai to Nasik/Pune/Panvel, we have to ensure that our people are actually present at their assigned places. For this, we have developed a software-based manpower management system for optimal utilisation of resources.
We have also implemented our 24-hour operational toll-free telephone number 1512 from which we provide emergency assistance to any person. We are deploying policemen in ladies’ compartments during night hours to ensure better safety. We are also in the process of installing CCTVs and emergency alarms in ladies compartments.
We undertake screening of passengers’ baggage, parcels and other materials carried by passengers. We are installing front-view cameras on the engines of suburban trains to identify possible reasons for runover deaths.
With enhanced, better quality CCTV coverage, video analytics, crime mapping, access control and visible policing, we intend to make the policing system more proactive.
During the pandemic, how have you gone about keeping passengers and your own personnel safe?
During the pandemic, our challenges were unique and very difficult. We were enforcing lockdown restrictions, arranging transport for outgoing passengers, maintaining crowd control in the station premises, while at the same time ensuring that our people adhere to protective guidelines for personal safety. For this, we distributed personal protective gear to all our people, carried out frequent health checkups for our people and their families, with isolation and quarantine and medical assistance available.
We had to keep the morale of the force high, despite many infections and deaths. Our seniors led from the front. When vaccination was introduced, we arranged for priority vaccination of the force. During the peak of the pandemic in 2020, we refrained from deploying people with comorbidities. These steps resulted in fewer cases and casualties amongst our people in the second wave.
While GRP’s responsibility is to prevent, detect and investigate crime, its personnel have to interact with hundreds of citizens everyday. How are they trained for this role?
Police personnel, like members of any specialised unit, need proper training, advice and skill sets to engage with their target group. With increase in literacy, development, change in the nature of composition of travelers, larger participation of women in the workforce and greater mobility of criminals and anti-social elements, we are constantly upgrading our capabilities through training, association with NGOs and the private sector, and briefings. We have started regular weekend training in addition to seminars, workshops and sensitisation drives.
You oversee a force of 6,000 personnel. In these stressful times, what is your ethos for human relations?
The top leadership of an organization must be accessible to its people and must have an empathetic view towards various issues confronting the organisation. The work culture must promote dignity at all levels. Similarly, the issues related to personnel management are of fundamental importance in our organization as most people join early, around the age of 18 to 20 years. The issues of their transfer, posting, leave, disciplinary proceeding etc. must be viewed with empathy.
Tell us about your ‘community fridge’ initiative, and how you are feeding hundreds of homeless and hungry people every day.
In the city of dreams i.e. Mumbai, it is generally believed that no person will go to bed hungry; the city provides for everyone. This belief was challenged during the pandemic lockdown as almost all establishments were shut. There was a scarcity of food, especially for the labour class. Sensing this difficulty, we came up with the idea of arranging food for the needy. We tied up with a large number of NGOs, trusts and citizen organisations to distribute dry rations as well as cooked food. We were distributing around 30.000 food packets daily, mostly in the eastern suburbs of Mumbai, where I had worked for a long time.
The need for food for the underprivileged has not abated. Hence, we have come up with the idea of starting community fridge services, where excess food available in homes and restaurants is made available in the community fridge, from where people can take food and eat. We are tying up with local restaurants and NGOs to help, and are gradually expanding this service to different parts of the city.