Surveillance gets low importance

          Karachi’s ambitious project to install 10,000 video surveillance cameras here seems to have gone out of government priorities, as it got only Rs11 million for next financial year, a senior government officials said.
However, a major part of a similar project included in ‘Safe City’ program was duly covered on priority.          Thousands of high resolution surveillance cameras are to be purchased under ‘Safe City’ project, but it did not reflect in the budget that was part of Sustainable Development Goal 16.
Only Rs60m had been allocated for the scheme, approved in October 2016 and is to be completed by 2020, but not a single penny was spent on it in current fiscal year.
According to budget, Sindh Police Video System Extension has been given Rs10.9m for next fiscal year. The project is an integral part of the scheme in which 10,000 cameras will be installed at 2,000 locations in Karachi.
Documents show Sindh government’s little interest in the scheme, but officials insist it was a small part of the Rs10 billion Safe City project which provincial authorities were doing with great interest.
Sindh CM Syed Murad Ali Shah had approved the project in October 2016 and said the cameras would be installed in three years. Officials said that over 2,000 areas had been identified in terms of criminal activities for installing cameras which would be connected with command and control centre.
CM Shah had said his government was trying to enhance capacity of those entrusted with maintaining law and order in Karachi.
Officials said the government had earlier allocated Rs200m for installing surveillance cameras at places of worship of minority communities in Sindh, and Rs100m had been released during current fiscal.
Officials admitted slow pace of expenses due to traditional red tape which resulted in spending not more than 11% of released amount. The project was initiated in 2016 on instructions of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chairman Peoples Party after certain places of worship had been vandalized and some received threats.
Another important project for improving security by installing CCTV cameras at jails in the province also needed to be properly started. Under the project, cameras are to be installed at prisons in Karachi, Malir, Sukkur, Hyderabad and Larkana, etc.
The scheme was launched in 2014 with estimated cost of Rs195m, but it did not receive a single penny during current fiscal year. It was given only Rs1 million for next financial year.
It shows government’s whimsical approach. It makes ambitious plans when something bad happens and turns complacent when the tide passes by.