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Messing around with drones

Jinoy Jose P | Updated on January 16, 2018

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Monitoring defecation in Haryana raises privacy concerns

The move in three districts in Haryana to use drones to spy on people defecating in public may seem well-intentioned, but it is surely short on grace and propriety. Certainly, it sets a bad precedent in surveillance.

Drones will fly over fields near villages in Panchkula and Sirsa, Yamunanagar, on most mornings, scanning any bowels being moved out in the open. The move, in fact, follows the Manohar Lal Khattar government’s recent decision to declare these districts open defecation free (ODF). Just last month Panchkula and Sirsa were declared ODF districts. Apparently, a pilot project is already on. Drones are already scanning half-a-dozen villages in Bilaspur block of Yamunanagar; those apprehended are being fined. A village committee oversees these actions as part of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

The Government must realise that public defecation is a socio-political issue. The absence of quality toilets has dogged sanitation efforts across the country. Millions rely on public places to defecate for a host of reasons, which include the absence of clean, safe alternatives. Genuine public participation, rather than use of force, will work better in inculcating a culture of cleanliness. Besides, such social transformation needs to be given time. Enforcing stern penalties on the poor and the landless — the ones affected — is particularly unfair.

Besides, such surveillance raises serious privacy concerns. Drones flying over villages holding HD cameras can capture any private activity, not just open defecation. This is voyeurism, if not worse. Drone data is open to misuse by the state, or anyone for that matter. Drones are an emerging, even promising, technology, being used with caution even in advanced countries. They help in sectors such as insurance, climate prediction, media and traffic surveillance. But they certainly have no place in toilets, public or private.

Deputy Editor

Published on October 25, 2016

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