A CCTV camera installed in the garden of The Motel Samrat on NH-33. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Highway eateries are under lens, literally.
Increased instances of hooliganism and drunken brawls, which often end with property damage or no payment for meals, have prompted at least four dhabas and a couple of hotels on NH-33 (Ranchi-Hazaribagh road) to install closed-circuit television (CCTV). Others are mulling similar security measures.
Besides ensuring 24x7 safety of eatery staff and customers, the electronic eye records telltale evidence against trouble-mongers for police action. Three days ago, the footage of a midnight ruckus at Madhuban dhaba helped police zero in on two culprits who were on the run since the incident.
According to dhaba employees, two groups of inebriated youths suddenly engaged in fisticuffs and then left without paying for the food. One of the injured took shelter on the premises of The Motel Samrat, 2km from the dhaba and next to Birsa Munda Biological Park in Ormanjhi.
“It was 3am when our staff, monitoring the CCTV camera, spotted the injured man. We alerted police. The man was taken to hospital. The next day, another footage of a brawl at Madhuban revealed that he was one among those involved. Police arrested him and, following interrogation, rounded up one of his aides,” said a hotel official.
Employees of the dhaba expressed their apprehensions. “Such fights scare us to the bone. You never know who might have a gun. This is an eatery. We don’t want a shootout here,” one of them said, justifying the need for round-the-clock surveillance.
Owner of The Motel Samrat Rajesh Kumar said they had installed half a dozen CCTV cameras for Rs 50,000 only three weeks ago.
“Earlier, we hosted only tourists who came in long-distance buses and were generally well-behaved. But, ever since the four-lane came up, the night crowd has increased immensely. While on the one hand it is brisk business, on the other hand, loutish boy gangs or sometimes young couples turning up as late as 3am for meal are trouble in guise of customers. We had to beef up security,” he said.
Kumar has also loaded special software into his mobile phone that helps him keep tabs on his motel when he is away. “It is an extra precaution. We do not mean to invade anyone’s privacy,” he added.
Besides Madhuban dhaba and The Motel Samrat, two more eateries — Mehta and Neelkamal Hotel close to Chutupalu Valley — have installed CCTV cameras.
“We have three cameras inside the bar, the restaurant and the garden, and two facing the road. The hi-tech surveillance system keeps an eye on customers on a real-time basis and sometimes helps us filter the incoming crowd of rowdy elements. If need be, police also take help of the footage to track down fugitives of the law,” said Samir Mahto, a member of staff at Neelkamal Hotel.
Are CCTV cameras enough to rein in highway rogues?