New Delhi: Parents are still not sure how it works, teachers are not too happy with it, experts think it is scary and students are mostly indifferent — this is the first response to the Delhi government’s initiative to install CCTV cameras in schools and let parents monitor their children.
Over 1,000 schools have been asked to strictly implement the order, and installation of the first batch of 2,000 cameras has been initiated. Tenders for the second batch are under process.
However, at the Shaheed Hemu Kalani Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya in Lajpat Nagar, where Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal launched the pilot project last Saturday, calling it a “historic milestone”, ThePrint found parents discussing the move Thursday afternoon while waiting to pick up their children.
Parents will be able to get a live feed of the CCTV cameras through the DGS Live app, which can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. Next, they will receive an SMS from the government control room, and will then be able to access the live classroom feed after proper verification. However, confusion reigns supreme, as most parents don’t even know which app to download.
Gautam Kohli, whose son is in class 4 in the school, told ThePrint: “We are aware of the cameras having been installed but we have no clue how we’ll view the feed. They’ve not told us anything.” Kohli, though, is in favour of keeping tabs on his son.
A mother who works as a domestic help and requested not to be named had come to pick up her daughter, a class 5 student. “I heard something even though I wasn’t present for the function, but I don’t know what is this mobile viewing system. There is a parent-teacher meeting tomorrow, maybe I will ask them,” she said.
A homemaker whose son is in class 9 said: “They said we can go find out about the feed for the camera at Room no. 2 (control room), but why should I go? If they’ve introduced this, they should share everything systematically.”
Gopal, a doctor’s assistant whose son is in class 4, said: “I feel it will help me keep a check on my son, if he’s up to something notorious or harmful.” But he quickly added that he’s not comfortable in having other fathers or male figures looking at his daughter, who studies in class 9 in a state-run school in Kailash Colony.
A Faridabad resident whose son studies science in class 11 said he’s not convinced about the move, as there are CCTVs all over Delhi but that hasn’t helped reduce the crime rate.
Kanika Gandhi, a teacher at a government school in Tughlakabad Extension, who had come to attend a seminar at the Lajpat Nagar school, said teachers in general were upset with the move. “It’s alright to be monitored by the director of education or your own principal. But to have parents look at every move isn’t very wise,” she said.
A teacher who teaches in Lajpat Nagar said on the request of anonymity: “Sometimes one is teaching ‘good touch, bad touch’, or say there is role playing. At times, you even have to be firm with a child. To have parents check everything and later come with complaint letters won’t address the issue of safety in any way.”
A teacher at a government school in Mehrauli said: “Given this involves young teenaged girls, and given that fathers or other men can have access to this, perhaps it isn’t the best idea. Everyone sits in a certain way and learns classroom manners after attending school.”
A maths teacher at a government school who also wished to remain anonymous, said; “If there is constant pressure that we are being monitored, it is bound to affect performance while we are teaching.”
‘No fights, baaki sab chalta hai’
A class 8 student of the Lajpat Nagar school said he’ll be careful not to fight with his mates now, given his parents would be watching. “Baaki sab chalta hai (Everything else is okay),” he said.
Another class 8 student said he would be indifferent towards the CCTV cameras, except for the times when he could be caught talking to a female classmate or simply fooling around with his friends. “Mummy-papa poochhenge (Mom and dad will question me),” he said.
Difference between protective & protectionist
Enakshi Ganguly Thukral, co-director at the HAQ Centre for Child Rights, said it is a scary idea to give parents access to the CCTV feed, adding that there is a difference between being protective and protectionist.
“Protection includes a notion of being liberal and ensuring safety, but protectionist means you are curtailing and disempowering someone. This is what the government is doing in this case,” she said, adding that it is for schools to monitor behaviour of children inside classrooms.
A former chief secretary of the Delhi government, who didn’t wish to be named, also said this move would put tremendous pressure on the teachers. “Every teacher used her own innovate methods while teaching students. More than the students, at least the young ones, who will continue to do their thing, this could interfere with a teacher’s style,” the former official said.
Shyamlal Ganguli, chief education officer at the Aditya Birla Group, asked that if safety and security are behind this step, “why doesn’t the Delhi government address the issue of the student-classroom ratio?”
Ganguli said the schools under his charge have CCTV cameras too, as per guidelines, but the idea of letting parents monitor what not only their own kids but others’ kids are up to is “ridiculous”, and wouldn’t help in enhancing educational reforms in any way.
However, Ameeta Mulla Wattal, principal of Springdales School, Pusa Road, disagreed with the other experts. “We have to move with the times. If not now, it had to happen sometime. Besides, there is nothing private about public life anyway,” she said.
“Perhaps this is how Mr Kejriwal is trying to monitor the lack of discipline in government schools and involving the parent community in it.”
Matter before the courts
The Supreme Court Friday refused to stay the installation of CCTV cameras, with the bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose declining interim relief.
The court was hearing a writ petition filed by Amber Tickoo, which stated that the “…installation of CCTV cameras and providing live feed of the same to anyone with a user ID and password jeopardises the safety and security of young girls as also the female teachers and shall directly give rise to the incidents of stalking and voyeurism. Also, there are no measures taken for protection of the data that is required to be stored in the aforesaid CCTV recordings”.
The Supreme Court had issued a notice to the Delhi government in May this year in this regard, observing that it would add to the psychological pressure on a student.
Meanwhile, the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) has issued a legal notice to the Delhi government to immediately stop the installation of about 1.4 lakh CCTV cameras, calling it a “dangerous and irrational” approach to the issue of crime against women and public safety.
In a statement to the press last month along with the notice, the foundation, a privacy advocacy group, termed the project “a voyeur’s dream, a stalker’s paradise”.
Kejriwal had brushed aside concerns about the privacy of children while inaugurating the project last week, arguing that they are sent to school to gain an education, learn discipline and become good citizens, and not for private goals.
ThePrint repeatedly tried to reach him for a comment, but did not receive a response. When Deputy CM Manish Sisodia was asked about the mobile feed not being accessible to parents even after Saturday’s launch, his office forwarded the query to the Director of Education, Binay Bhushan, “for taking appropriate action as per rules”.
He issued a statement Friday.
Decision taken after careful planning: Manish Sisodia
Deputy Chief Minister and Education Minister Manish Sisodia said the decision had been taken after careful planning.
In his statement, Sisodia said: “We have decided to install CCTV cameras in all Delhi government schools after careful planning and well thought out Standing Operating Procedures (SoPs) have been put in place.”
Citing the Delhi High Court observation that there was no privacy issue involved in installing CCTVs in classrooms, he said: “I am making it clear that the feed of classrooms will only be made available to parents, who will be able to access it after getting a secure password for a smart-phone for a limited period of time daily without any audio.”