Gujranwala awaits safe city project

Five years on, plan to install 3,000 CCTV cameras on roads couldn’t see light of the day


Shehzad Akram March 29, 2021
Safe City project. PHOTO: PPI/FILE

GUJRANWALA:

The safe city project aimed at preventing crimes in Gujranwala remains a distant dream for local people as its implementation could not be completed even after five years.

Reportedly, the plan was to install 3,000 cameras on different roads.

Departmental authorities told the SHOs of 30 police stations to install 800 cameras in 2019 with the help of the citizens, especially traders. The total cost of the safe city project, initially estimated to be Rs3 billion, has now reached Rs8 billion.

As per reports, Gujranwala city’s crime rate is increasing day by day. The previous government announced the safe city projects which were to be implemented in Gujranwala, Faisalabad and Rawalpindi due to high crime rates in the districts. Work on the plan was started immediately.

Read: PHC to register Gujranwala’s blood banks

The then RPO and former Punjab IGP Muhammad Tahir and CPO Waqas Nazir completed its file work and consulted the traders and the the chamber of commerce to find out which places most needed cameras and where they could be installed.

Reportedly, the two officers worked diligently and sent the details to the previous provincial government and the Safe Cities Authority. Initially, half the budget of Rs1.5 billion was released for the project after the proposed budget was set at Rs3 billion in 2016. Work was started after taking more than five kanals of land near Nigar railway crossing.

The project was to be completed within a year. Under the project, Gujranwala would have 3,000 cameras and the places included GT Road, Sialkot Road, Pasrur Road, Jinnah Road, Makki Road, Kashmir Road, Bypass Road, Khayali Road, Nowshera Sansi Road, Baghbanpura, Hafizabad, Model Town, Gondlanwala Road, College Road and other parts of the city.

The Dolphin Force headquarters and control room were to be built. The force had 60 heavy motorcycles. However, the project is still incomplete due to non-release of funds. The funds which were stopped by the caretaker government in 2017 and have not been released yet.

According to the contractor, the cost of the project has now increased from Rs3 billion to Rs8 billion in view of rising inflation.

The structure of both the buildings had been completed with the initial half allocation of Rs1.5 billion received in the beginning. However, the incomplete building is now becoming a den of drug addicts. Meanwhile, the crime rate in the city has risen sharply. In order to identify and apprehend suspected criminals, police had to search for the CCTV footage for several days and acquire it after hectic efforts.

Meanwhile, in view of their difficulties, the police conducted a survey in 30 police stations of the district to identify the places where most crimes take place. After identifying the places, the police stations were ordered to ask the shopkeepers and presidents of local market associations to install cameras at different squares and roundabouts. Around 800 cameras were installed at the expense of the citizens to help the police in preventing crimes.

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However, the plan failed when many homeowners and businesses complained about the police's attitude. No plan to address the concerns has been made yet, while the police are having difficulty tracking suspected criminals.

Ali Waseem, a former SSP operation, said that the project would be completed under private-public partnership. “However, police officers, including the former RPO had failed to convince the Gujranwala Chamber of Commerce about the benefit of investing billions of rupees in the project.”

They potential investors were also concerned about the outcome of the project, after which it was put on hold, he added.

The five-storey and six-storey buildings remain non-functional and the contractors have halted work due to non-payment, he further said. “Now they demand to be employed at the current rates, but the funds must be released.”

When contacted, Regional Police Officer Sarfraz Ahmed Falaki said the authorities also wanted the project completed as soon as possible. “We are also trying to hold meetings for the release of funds,” he claimed.

 

Published in The Express Tribune, March 29th, 2021.

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