Spy Camera And The Dangerous 'Crusade Against Corruption'
By Ravi Nitesh
22 January, 2014
During the election time, the present government, formed by the new political party, Aam Admi Party or AAP had installed some high resolution spy cameras in Delhi slums to record any alleged distribution of money, liquor etc to woo the voters. That was probably the first time when they had showed their love for spy camera, while violating the right to privacy and also trying to take over the role of election commission.
Now, after forming the government, they are back on their track. Delhi government is officially encouraging people to become a 'spy' and record audio/video if anyone asks them for bribe. Because of this, an increase in the sale of spy cameras along with variety (cameras in pen, key rings etc) as well as affordability has also been reported. But does the Government realise what it is actually doing? Has it assessed the repercussions? Do the citizens know what this can lead to?
Govt. is preparing spies without teaching them the 'ethics' of a spy
The 'sting operation' culture that is being installed today for one issue may not be restricted to it in the long-run. This culture will result in the normalising of sting operations and Delhi may then apply it in all other fields of their life. Normalising it would also mean that it will become hard to resist or challenge it.
With the prosperous market of spy cameras and the culture, people may start using the cameras in other fields (apart from bribe recordings) as well and then may indulge in blackmailing. It is a sad reality that there have already been many cases where in hidden cameras have been used for wrong purposes. Everyday there are reports about blackmailers who capture private lives of people and then use the recordings to blackmail. With a prosperous market, this can make the situation worse.
Violation of Right to Privacy
As stated above, there is a high possibility that the spy camera culture will not be limited to the field of corruption, it can be used in other situations. By this way, we may cross the thin line between right to information and right to privacy. This right of surveillance will violate the privacy of citizens.
It also reminds me of Foucault's theory of surveillance. Normalizing the secret recordings by citizens can ultimately lead to state surveillance in all forms of life. It will be on the sound basis that when the citizens are ready to do that, they must also be ready to accept that. Today, in the name of fighting against corruption, the state is encouraging the citizens to keep records. Tomorrow the state will use the same tactic. In the name of 'security' or any other issue, the state will be able to justify surveillance over the citizens.
Danger on life of citizen
Sting operations are difficult not just because of unavailability of equipments but because it can be life-threatening. There are many cases wherein RTI activists were killed because they had evidences that could expose scams and wrong-doings of the authorities.
Doesnt address 'Mutually- Benefiting' type corruption
It is claimed that that the corrupt will be in fear and corruption can be checked but this will be possible only in cases wherein the giver doesn't feel it right to give bribe. In the cases, where both are mutually benefited, it will not be recorded. It means that the big bribes and pre-set bribes will continue.
All burden on citizen's shoulder?
Also, if everything from making recording (preparing evidence), to lodge the complaint, has to be done by a citizen, will it not be over facilitating the officials?
It is important that the long-term effects as well as a more broad-minded approach needs to be adopted while framing policies. While, sting operations by citizens will certainly not guarantee the removal of corruption, it will lead to more dangerous consequences in the future.
Ravi Nitesh is a Petroleum Engineer, Founder- Mission Bhartiyam, Core Member- Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign
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