The ghats of Howrah are now under surveillance with high-resolution closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras installed last month.
Shibpur Ghat, Ramkrishnapur Ghat and Telkol Ghat in central Howrah, each of which is visited by hundreds of people every day, now have two to three CCTVs as part of a Howrah City Police initiative keeping in mind the safety and security of common people.
Sources at Lalbazar said none of the 75-plus ghats under the jurisdiction of Calcutta police has permanent CCTVs. CCTVs are installed only during immersion after Durga Puja and Kali Puja.
The cameras at the Howrah ghats have been focussed strategically to record activities on the landings and staircases leading to the river, a part of the surrounding areas and also a portion of the road. "Accidents often occur on the ghats. When a person drowns, CCTV footage can help confirm if it was an accident," said a senior police officer.
Each ghat has at least two cameras installed. At Ramkrishnapur Ghat, for instance, there are three cameras near the sloping area where the Ganga arati is held every day.
"We have installed eight cameras so far at the three ghats and we plan to install some more in the coming months," said Sumit Kumar, the deputy commissioner of police for traffic in Howrah.
Those who bathe at the ghats need not worry about privacy as there will be no live monitoring of the cameras. "There is no provision for live monitoring anywhere in Howrah yet. The footage will be recorded and stored at nearby police outposts. Whenever there is an incident, we can go back to the footage from the recordings," said a police officer. Footage can be stored for a maximum of 30 days.
Senior officers of Calcutta police said the number of crimes such as lifting and theft of articles left on the ghats by people who come to bathe there has never been high enough to prompt installation of permanent CCTVs. But officers with experience of working in the ghat areas pointed out that CCTVs could always help determine the circumstances leading to a suicide or accident. Another officer said CCTVs act as a deterrent to crime.
Additional reporting by Monalisa Chaudhuri