Nanded Safe City – An Innovative Experiment

A sleepy town about 600 kilometers perfectly east from Mumbai, Nanded came into national prominence in the year 2008 with the holding of the Guru-ta-Gaddi, tercentennial celebrations to mark the consecration of Guru Granth Sahib, as the eternal guru of the Sikhs by Guru Gobind Singh. Of course, in Maharashtra, Nanded is also more politically known as the town or district, which has given two chief ministers to the state. To the enterprising Sikh community, Nanded has been an important place of worship for hundreds of years due to the presence of the Gurudwara.

Guru-ta-gaddi brought several things to Nanded, its citizens and the governing agencies – a huge honour, a sense of responsibility and government funding. Most of the funding was utilized in upgrading the civic infrastructure – roads, drainage systems, electric lines, water supply pipes, river embankments. The national event also brought a sense of awareness and aspiration in the citizenry, which forced the governing agencies and the politicians to respond to, by continuing to introduce and implement better programs of governance.

For a few years now, Nanded has also been on the radar of intelligence agencies due to the perceived presence of, and in a few cases, the capture of a few extremist elements locally. A couple of terrorists captured recently hailed from Nanded and this was a concern that needed to be addressed. As a city, Nanded witnesses a huge influx of religious tourists several times in a year, which does put a considerable strain on the security establishment.

The growing security concerns were recognized early by the proactive establishment and thus, it was decided that a city surveillance project should be introduced in the city, to complement the police machinery. It was decided that the Nanded Waghala City Municipal Corporation (NWCMC) should be given the task of implementing the project and handing it over to the Nanded Police for continual use.

Macintosh HD:Users:prasadpatil:Pictures:NandedSafeCity.jpgImmediately, NWCMC engaged MIPL, a leading security consultant, to prepare a detailed project report. Ably guided in the process by Mr. D. Sivanandhan, (ex-DGP, Maharashtra), MIPL recommended that instead of a just a “city surveillance project”, a “Safe City Project” (SCP) should be implemented in Nanded. The elements of such a project would be:

Command & Control Infrastructure
Emergency Response Software
PTZ and Night Vision Fixed Cameras
Emergency Vehicle Tracking System
Distress Communication
Integration with other civic systems

MIPL stressed the need for an integrated, scalable and robust command and control infrastructure that would address the security concerns in a rapidly urbanizing space and also provide an efficient response in an emergency or a disaster. The project is now close to completion and will be one of the first, true Safe City Projects to be commissioned in India. Here are a few learnings from the project that can be applied to any other Safe City Project being conceptualized:

Its not just about CCTV

CCTVs are but one component in a safe city project. There are many surveillance projects which are being planned in India, without understanding that CCTVs alone do not make a city safe. Thus a good SCP will use surveillance cameras intelligently but also in combination and well-complemented by other security technologies. Also, when using CCTV, do not just take PTZ cameras – their application and utility is grossly over appreciated.

Start small, but plan big

When a security project is planned, the scale can become unwieldy – and we have seen that in India, this has been a problem. Indian security companies do not currently have the ability to manage very large security projects – and that’s a fact. When governments plan on safe city projects, it is important not to go overboard – its better to undertake a phased implementation with each phase showing tangible and measurable benefits. However, that does mean that the project has to be designed appropriately, so that scalability it built into the design.

Safe City Makes Sense

In the present day scenario, an SCP has to be thought of as a tool for efficient governance, and not only as a security tool, which is used by all governing agencies of a city or a district. Presented as such, reluctance to SCP projects can dissolve and the project can gain wider acceptance. In India, where the police force is understaffed and underfunded, it is a good idea to involve municipal corporations or the district administrations, who can provide leadership and the funds to take such projects to the logical conclusion.

Disaster “Prevention” alongwith “Incident Response”

The term “Disaster Management” is just not a good term – you cant “manage” disasters – you can only manage the response. Also, the true objective of any SCP should be to “prevent” disasters. Hence, any technology that helps in preemption of an impending security incident should be whole-heartedly internalized.

Integrate. Integrate. Integrate.

SCP projects must have the capability to integrate with other civic or governance technologies. In Nanded, the control room software will eventually be integrated with intelligent traffic management system, RTO database for challan generation, flood level sensors and weather warnings. The system is capable to integrate with any other digital alert system, so that the control room is a single place where all safety and security alerts can be received and acted upon.

World Class components

The use of world class components – equipment, hardware and software – is key to ensuring that the project achieves its objectives. Hence, vendor selection and equipment selection are an important task and should be done by professionals with prior experience with such systems. An SCP project is a complicated project involving multiple technologies and physical sciences, which are best left to experts to handle. There are open source software’s – especially in the field of Emergency Response – which should be tapped, if their use is appropriate for the local needs.

Community Involvement

An SCP can get the local community worried – the political leadership can play an active role to assuage the concerns and in fact get the public actively involved in the project. Without the true involvement of the public at large an SCP can never become truly successful.

In conclusion, the Nanded Safe City project is a unique and innovative experiment in making a city truly safe. Over time, the true success of the project will be measured, but the project is based on sound fundamental

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