As a large number of devotees gather at Haridwar for Kumbh Mela amid an alarming spike in COVID-19 infections, the Uttarakhand Police has started using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to track COVID-19 regulation violators.
According to police officials, over 350 CCTV cameras have been installed in the Mela region, with nearly 100 of them equipped with sensors that produce an alert when a person without wearing a mask is captured on camera, The Indian Express reported.
The AI-equipped cameras installed for the first time at the Kumbh also generate alerts when places marked as vulnerable for stampedes such as Har ki Pauri, Subhash ghat, Brahmakund, and Malviya Dweep witness a higher crowd density.
The cameras are often used to keep track of cars in parking lots and to identify items that have been left unattended for more than 10 minutes.
In case the cameras detect someone without a mask, it sends an alert to officers stationed at the Mela Bhawan police surveillance control room near Har Ki Pauri, and they report the violator's location with the nearest enforcement teams. Besides getting a free mask, the person receives punishment.
Sanjay Gunjyal, the Inspector-General of Police, Haridwar Kumbh Mela, said that using AI-enabled cameras to monitor Mela areas has been effective.
Mukesh Thakur, Additional Superintendent of Police (SP) in charge of the Police Surveillance Control Room at Kumbh, said, "When a site identified as vulnerable gets crowded beyond 75 per cent of its capacity, the control room gets an alert, at which point, entry of people to these sites will be immediately stopped."
"A trial of these cameras equipped with AI capabilities had been done during the first Shahi Snan on March 11. Now it will be used during the entire Kumbh Mela period," Thakur added.
Over three lakh devotees visit the various ghats in Haridwar every day during the Kumbh Mela, but the number is expected to rise during the Shahi Snans on April 12, 14, and 27.
Police Face Difficulty While Ensuring Social Distancing
Meanwhile, the police officials said it was challenging for them to ensure social distancing norms as the crowd gathered was massive on the second day of the royal bath to take a holy dip in the Ganga river at Har Ki Pauri.
Gunjyal said, "We are continuously appealing to people to follow COVID-19 appropriate behaviour. But due to the huge crowd, it is practically not possible to issue challans today. It is very difficult to ensure social distancing at ghats,'' Hindustan Times.
He also cautioned that enforcing social distancing at ghats could result in a stampede-like situation.
On Saturday, Uttarakhand reported 1,233 new COVID-19 infections, 317 recovery cases, and three fatalities. The total number of cases in the state was 107,479, with over 6,000 active cases as of Saturday.
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