Dehradun: Fifteen high resolution cameras installed along the pedestrian path between Sonprayag and Kedarpuri — ostensibly to monitor pilgrim movement — will also allow Prime Minister Narendra Modi to track the progress of his ‘dream project’, reconstruction of the Kedarnath shrine area. The shrine had been ravaged by the 2013 flash floods in Uttarakhand.
The installation of the new cameras and technological upgrade of the local intranet surveillance system (LIS) along the 20-kilometre stretch leading to the Kedarnath shine comes as part of preparations for the coming Char Dham pilgrimage season, starting in the first week of May.
The all-weather cameras have been installed by the Uttarakhand State Wide Area Network (UKSWAN), a networking support system of the state government, which is responsible for communication data transfer within the government establishments.
Officials associated with the LIS system told ThePrint that although there has been no formal communication from the Prime Minister’s Office requesting 24×7 monitoring, preparations have been made to ensure that it can be done anytime the PM wants to review progress of the Kedarnath reconstruction work, and activities along the pedestrian path.
“There has been no demand from the PM, but we have upgraded our network system with high resolution cameras. Live facilities to watch Kedarnath shrine for the PMO can be provided anytime we are asked. It has been done in the past as well,” said Uttarakhand’s Tourism Secretary Dilip Jawalkar, without divulging more details.
Talking about the additions, newly appointed Rudraprayag district magistrate Mayur Dixit said “new cameras have been installed on the pilgrimage track, apart from those already there at Kedarnath, and more installation will be done in the coming days”.
“I am yet to take stock of the whole system, (such as) if there is any plan to monitor the shrine area works by the PMO. I will have to study the complete system before saying something in concrete terms,” Dixit told ThePrint.
‘Difficult to say if any other purpose to it’
A UKSWAN engineer informed ThePrint on the condition of anonymity that the prime minister had, in the past, checked on the progress in work relating to the Kedarnath reconstruction with the help of live footage taken by a drone, but it was for a very brief time, and also didn’t cover the area of the pilgrimage route.
“More than 15 high resolution, internet protocol (IP) cameras have been set up on the pedestrian route at six different places between Sonprayag and Kedarpuri. These are an addition to the cameras already installed at different locations of the shrine area, and those at the helipad and construction sites,” the engineer detailed.
“Local intranet surveillance system, developed under UKSWAN, has been upgraded with the aim to allow PM check the work status here any time he wants. He can even access the footage on his laptop,” he added.
The engineer pointed out Kedarnath reconstruction is one of the PM’s pet projects, and the new cameras can withstand extreme climatic conditions, such as sub-zero temperatures, snowstorms, or even being hit by heavy objects. This will also help monitoring of the area when the shrine is closed during winter.
So far, only the chief minister’s office, as well as the Rudraprayag district magistrate, chief secretary and state tourism secretary (also the nodal officer for Kedarnath shrine work) have access to 24-hour direct monitoring of the area. Integrating the UKSWAN system with the National Informatics Centre (NIC) network can, however, extend the facility to the prime minister and his office.
“The purpose of the newly installed cameras is to monitor the pilgrims’ movements on the pedestrian track between Sonprayag and Kedarnath Shrine area. However it’s difficult to say if there is any other purpose in it,” said Rudraprayag district disaster management officer, Nandan Singh Rajwar.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)