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Automated surveillance technology using drones to spot problematic human behavior in crowds is going to be tested at Technozion and Spring Spree festivals at NIT Warangal, reports the Verge. Lead researcher Amarjot Singh of the University of Cambridge claimed that their system has 94% accuracy at identifying violent poses. However, this accuracy drops with more people in the frame (like there would be at a festival), for example, to 79% with 10 people in the frame.

Police surveillance is growing without much scrutiny in recent years. The laws governing such surveillance have grey areas in which a lot of video surveillance technology currently operates. Reported applications include face recognition technology, behavior recognition, as in the case of the surveillance drones reported in The Verge, facial recognition and linking with police records, including tagging personal information with Aadhaar and sharing it across states.

An increasing number of cities have police using various kinds of surveillance databases to get better information on suspects and potential criminals in the city. These databases, where individual policemen can add the information of people to have some disturbing implications. There are several cities using Facial Recognition Softwares to assist policemen keep track of criminals.

Surveillance of everyone, not just criminals or suspects

There are several cities where CCTV camera networks scan everyone on the street and match their faces against a database of suspects and criminals. Here is a partial list:

  • In 2015, Surat became the first city in India to deploy real time surveillance through facial recognition systems when they implemented NEC India's FaceWatch in collaboration with Innovative Telecom & Softwares. The system uses live feeds from a growing network of CCTV cameras and can be used to monitor for crime in real time. It is capable of facial recognition as well as Automatic number plate recognition. Also, "It automatically matches faces against a database of 30,000 criminal mugshots and can alert the police immediately of anyone on a watchlist."By August, Surat had 604 cameras in 114 locations, covering 10% of the city with plans to add another 900 cameras in a year and bring the total to 2,500 in two years.
  • In 2015, Hyderabad police launched vehicle mounted CCTV cameras with a 360 degree view and ability to store footage for 15 days.
  • In 2016, Mumbai got 4,617 CCTV cameras hooked to the RTO control room and backed by 1000 vehicles fitted with GPS in order to coordinate with the control room were made operational with the objective of tackling law and order, fighting and preventing crime, regulating traffic and detecting traffic-related offences. These cameras are also capable of Automatic Number Plate Recognition as well as Facial Recognition. Additional Chief Secretary (Home) K P Bakshi told the Indian Express, "We can search for an individual all over the city. The cameras will identify the face of a wanted criminal. The camera will also pick out faces of persons roaming around continuously in one place. The nearest police van will then be alerted about the person’s location."
  • In 2016, 160 CCTV cameras were installed in Visakhapatanam as a part of a hi-tech surveillance network.
  • In 2016, in Vijaywada in Andhra Pradesh, NEC's Facial Recognition System was used to identify suspects and criminals at the Krishna Pushkaram religious event which sees around 50 million pilgrims attending to take a holy bath in the Krishna river.
  • In 2017, Jaipur police trialed a facial recognition system with cameras installed outside the Ganesh temple at Modi Doongri and controlled from the command and control centre called "Abhay". The FRS would scan the people before it and match them against a database of serial offenders and suspects.
  • In 2018, Cameras with Facial Recognition Technology are expected to be in use in local trains on the Central line in Mumbai, by the end of the year 2018, at a total cost of 276 crore. The cameras "will store facial details of commuters (for 10 days). The cameras with facial recognition software would help trace past movements of any offender on a local train and arrest the person when he travels next." A total of 11,160 cameras will be procured - 76 cameras for each rake, with at least 6 cameras in each coach of the rake.
  • In 2018, Hyderabad city police are matching the faces of everyone on the city's streets against a database of one lakh criminas, from the control room at the Facial Recognition Analytics unit at the Commissioner’s office at Basheerbagh. IT Cell incharge, K. Sreenath Reddy said that the local police are alerted only when the resemblance is more than 70 per cent.
  • Thiruvananthapuram police are using 233 cameras in their surveillance network of the city.
  • Paradip in Odisha is to get a CCTV surveillance camera network within a month.
  • Retired ACP Dhoble (of the hockey stick wielding moral police fame) is now in the process of getting a facial recognition software for the city and believes it needs to be created with the "help" of his son Kshitij, who specialized in Artificial Intelligence at Aukland University. An effort that initially began with a goal of tracing missing people has expanded its objective to "tracking criminals" as well. "Meanwhile, they began compiling the information of all 15,847 police stations in India and uploaded it on the site. One aspect of the site is uploading the information of these police and stations. The other is to spot child beggars, labourers and send it to the site."

Police database for use with mobile app -FaceTagr

This is a database of criminal records that can be used with a Facial Recognition Software (FaceTagr) installed on Android mobile phones of beat policemen and inspectors working in the field. When a policeman scans a suspect's face, the mobile app returns data of police cases filed and police station limits for the criminal the face matches with. Databases being expandable, the database has the potential to store the records of criminals across the country.

The application that was originally built by Vijay Gnanadesikan, CEO of Haliscape Business Solutions, to help rescue children by matching records of missing and found children, was first trialled for police use in Chennal

  • In 2017, FACETAGR was adopted by T Nagar police station of Chennai, beginning with a database of 12,000 criminals. An additional 40,000 suspects were added to the app to improve the chances of police identifying faces. The app used by policemen to "scan" suspects. Once a suspect is scanned, the app returns information about them.
  • In 2018, Chennai police will expand the use of FACETAGR to include interstate criminals as well by expanding the data used by the application to other Southern states. Currently the database has information on 67,000 criminals, including information sent by the Pudducherry Crime Records Bureau. It is awaiting data from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala and Karnataka. The application is in use in 10 out of 12 police districts and is installed on the phones of beat constables. 18 inspectors, subinspecotrs and 150 beat police of Washermanpet were the latest to get the app, with "700 criminals in A, A plus, B and C categories".
  • Chittoor adopted the app in December 2017 with data of 10,000 sandalwood smugglers and 3,000 suspected criminals.
  • Pudducherry has also adopted the use of FACETAGR in March 2018

e-Petty

The e-Petty app is being used across Telangana state to book cases in minor crimes under Sections pertaining to IPC, City Police Act, Gaming Act/ COTPA Act 2003, Motor Vehicle Act and Town Nuisance Act. The app can record photographic and video evidence from the crime scene, photographs of suspects and generate an automatic chargesheet based on evidence. The app tracks previous cases of individuals as well and identify repeat violators because the app links profiles online with Aadhaar card numbers.

Hyderabad

Hyderabad is probably the most surveilled city in the country. The Integrated People Information Hub pulls data from dozens of sources to create profiles of individuals that include not just their own comprehensive information, but that of parents as well. It is a data hoarding machine gone rogue, where there appears to be no reason or reasonable suspicion required to put citizens under surveillance. The surveillance includes call records, social media, relatives and friends, utilities and more.

Questions raised

The use of aggregated databases and Artificial Intelligence  in large scale applications is new in India and the laws don't yet have necessary support as well as restrictions on implementation. There is no doubt that information is power and information on suspects and criminals empowers police to do their jobs better. The lack of development of proper laws, policies, protocols and facilities for the police to record and access information in a secure manner has led to the adoption of various technologies in an ad hoc manner with little overisght.

However, largescale use of such applications raise several and serious questions:

  • Is it constitutional to treat every person as a potential criminal? When all the people entering the range of a Facial Recognition enabled camera are scanned and matched against databases of criminals, it amounts to intrusive surveillance. India lacks a data protection law or a law defining the contours of privacy, however the recent robust arguments against surveillance and observations by judges in the Constitutional Challenge to Aadhaar are very clear that Indians do have a right to privacy and surveillance violates this right.
  • Data ownership: FaceTagr is owned by Haliscape Business Solutiosn Pvt Ltd of Chennai. NEC is a global organization. It is unclear who owns or protects the data on these databases and what restrictions exist against its misuse.
  • Data access: Cortica, a foreign AI company has formed a partnership with the Best Group to analyze CCTV footage from public cameras to predict crime. While technologically it may be a challenging goal, a foreign company with considerable ties to foreign intelligence has capabilities and access to individuals on Indian streets. The software is capable of using data from not just video cameras but satellite and drone footage as well and is capable of analyzing human behavior, including differentiating between nature of crowds - routine market corwd or a protest, etc.In the case of Mumbai, a company run by a software professional and a retired police official appears to have  access to information from all police stations in India and are proceeding to build a database! It is unclear how and why a software under development by private individuals has access to nationwide sensitive data.
  • A market of the gullible: The lack of proper evaluation or policies requiring specific standards has left the police of India a ripe target for companies selling surveillance products who may exploit the real need for collecting information or corrupt insiders to gain contracts. Many of the technologies described here have not been subjected to robust testing and have no published research about their quality. Some of the stories describe extensive installations that become defunct or are not of adequate quality to begin with, as in the case of Visakhapatanam, left with 3 working cameras out of 160 within 2 years of installation at massive public expense. Others describe extremely efficient systems, but ones that violate the rights of the citizens they are supposed to serve.This risks spending public funds for purposes and methods that may not be in public interest. There is an urgent need to consult with independent experts and digital rights law researchers and other professionals without conflict of interest to put together guidelines for data collection for surveillance, data destruction when its purpose is served, securing of that data to prevent misuse and policies on who should have access and a transparent process for granting such access.
  • Who is a criminal or suspect: It doesn't take a lot for police to consider someone a suspect and there is little oversight. There is no warrant or independent authority required to initiate surveillance against anyone. Such a database has the capacity to take the local prejudices of police across state lines and cause considerable harassment to individuals in all areas covered by such databases.
  • Utility: While there is obviously a need for police to monitor suspects in order to gather evidence, the legality and utility of randomly spotting them on the street is debatable. What is the utility of someone say.... suspected of having conducted a robbery... being spotted in another state - if it even is the same person?
  • Technological limitations: Such "identification" is inherently probabilistic and can be wrong. A good example would be the Welsh police wrongly identifying over two thousand people as potential criminals when they used Facial Recognition at the 2017 Champions League final in Cardiff in a crowd of 170,000 spectators. This has the potential to create a lot of harassment as well as waste police resources when applied to the far bigger numbers of people on the street in Indian cities.
  • Bypassing consent: A person suspected by the police and asked to come for questioning has rights. They can agree or refuse and the police cannot actually force them to say.... stand in a line up to be identified without any due process. Or they may wish to have a lawyer present when interacting with a policeman as a suspect. However, use of software such as this allows a beat constable to completely arbitrarily scan people who may not even realize that they are actually in a situation with the law where they may need to exert choices to protect their interests.
  • Human rights: As often happens when the state adopts technology, the advantages of the technology have been understood and promoted, but there appears to have been little consideration given to human rights implications of falsely accused individuals, potential for corruption through entering or removing entries on the database for bribes or blackmail, consequences of false positives to innocents and other potential fallout. There needs to be better consultation by the state when adopting such technologies with professionals (other than those providing the technology as a solution) to assess the wider impact beyond the immediate problem the technology aims to solve and mitigate the potential for harm.
  • Ability to maintain technology: Out of 160 cameras installed in Visakhapatanam 2016, 3 cameras were working in 2018. One of them being pointed to the ground, was useless.
  • Aggregated or discrete databases? It is not known whether the databases used to identify criminals through CCTV or the FaceTagr app or e-Petty are linked where they coexist. Aggregation of data across these databases has even more potential for the violation of rights of citizens.
  • Magnifying social prejudices: A simple statistical reality is that positives - whether real or false - will be higher among those who get scanned more. In a country where there is considerable documented evidence of prejudice against religious minorities or underprivileged castes, classes and communities, the use of such a software has the potential to magnify and endorse prejudices that cause their targeting. Take for example, reported cases of slums being raided and all the men in them being asked to identify themselves. The chances of these men being identified - correctly or falsely - will always be higher than say a person living in a gated society, where such raids are unheard of, simply because such faces will get scanned more often than those whose circumstances don't lend easily to such situations.
  • Use of Aadhaar for profiling: the e-Petty app used in Telangana is a clear use of Aadhaar for profiling - something the government has consistently denied in the Supreme Court.
  • Lack of appropriate digital security: Apart from the data being shared across state borders, or being hosted on private servers or foreign companies being given access to it - which are issues of policy to determine what is appropriate and what is not, there are outright failures of digital security, which result in unintended and unauthorized access to the very sensitive data being collected. Researcher Kodali, for example, had pointed out that the Hyderabad police were using a third party portal to record and geotag crime. The portal having very poor security for the purpose it was being used for, had allowed the indexing of crime reports by search engines for years, including the names of rape victims - which is not legal in India.
  • Lack of independent audit or testing: The systems used for both largescale CCTV surveillance as well as scanning individuals using a mobile app do not have information available on their accuracy. The lesser the accuracy, the more such systems will end up wasting police resources on chasing dead ends and causing harassing citizens.
  • A need for legislation: It is undeniable that the police need effective ways to access databases to find information on suspects and criminals on the fly. It is also inevitable that this will involve a certain degree of invasion of privacy in the interests of conducting investigations. However, this cannot simply be left to whatever software developers believe can be done or police wish to adopt. There needs to be a regulatory framework that will identify situations when such use is legitimate and protect citizens from arbitrarily being entered into databases as suspects. There should also be regulation of what information should remain local and what should be disseminated - a local suspected of robbery does not need to be found acorss state borders, but an absconding criminal found in the footage of a murder should be. There is also a need for legislation to remove names from the databases when the people are no longer suspects - for example cases people were suspected in get closed with others charged.

Further reading:

  • Research published by the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law, "The Perpetual Line-Up" on the unregulated use of public surveillance by law enforcement and the risks.
  • Technological bias: While MediaNama was not able to find any research about FaceTagr specifically, "Face Recognition Performance: Role of Demographic Information" by the FBI about accuracy of Facial Recognition in various population demographics is an interesting read on the biases caused by how the system is "trained" to recognize faces.
  • Policy Paper on Surveillance in India by the Centre for Internet & Society

1

I tend to have very strong opinions, so my contempt for the increasing "stupidification" of India is hardly a secret. This is a cause for alarm, because it is indeed contagious. Political views, gender, caste, class, religion are not barriers to this epidemic. The reason for it is the natural human tendency to reply in the manner in which we are spoken to. I have brought this up before. If I say apple, you may say "oranges, pie, tree, cold weather, computer...." but you are unlikely to say, say for example, "spoon" - our mind tends to reply in a manner that is relevant to what it is that we are replying.

This is a problem when there is an overall process of radicalization, because those conditioned to thinking in a polarized mannerh will have a tendency to bring all conversation to their programmed triggers. The trap is already set. There are few responses that can be made at that level that won't derail you from the subject you wish to talk about. As a consequence, this conditioning spreads also to those who oppose it through sheer Pavlovian repetition. So a person questioning a liberal perspective may be a bhakt, a person questioning a feminist perspective may be a misogynist, and so on. The fundamental tendency proliferates on its own through sheer engagement with it. Whether in agreement or disagreement does not matter, as long as the nature of interaction is polarized.

It creates an unconscious conditioning of disagreement being seen as hostility or outright evil. Among both desiring to exclude or target specific identities or those wishing to exclude or target those who exclude or target specific identities. This is where we are today. This is why it is so difficult to prevent the increasing irrationality. Because those opposing the irrational views themselves get sucked into the whirlpool to the bottom of the IQ scale.

It is human nature to recognize our own view as the sane one and see the irrationality outside us.

However, if we examine the interactions we have, for quality, as opposed to morality, the problem is clear. We have gazed too long into the abyss and the abyss also gazes into us.

This, in my view is the real danger to the society, the country and the world. A departure from rational thought in the public space is a very alarming situation. The stupidification is a bigger threat to India long term than the violence and it has grown far more than either side of the polarization is able to recognize.

Fear is seductive. Our survival instincts condition us to pay attention to threats in order to survive. Hence, negativity - real or imagined - will always draw attention more easily than well being (there is nothing that needs urgent attention).

In my view, the bigger urgency today is to understand how we get sucked into talking about things we don't wish to through sheer Pavlovian conditioning. We need to develop skills to engage in rational debate and refuse to engage in irrational triggers derailing conversation to programmed tirades on political stands. The immediate danger may be violent mobs, but the larger long term concern is what caused so many people to think that such a stupid choice is a bright idea.

This is the result of fear. The fear that is used as a quick fix to compensate with paranoia what the agenda lacks in quality. We are surrounded by a culture of fear. Majorities are led to believe that minorities are somehow going to subjugate them. People who wouldn't quit smoking over health issues in the next decade would happily celebrate the murders of hundreds or thousands to "protect" themselves from that unlikely threat. The chances of dying in a road accident are higher, but they feel no fear about being in a vehicle. The point I am making here is anxiety is carefully built about specific subjects to turn them into threats for political profit. This is how Muslims being less than a fifth of the population and yet disproportionately underrepresented in jobs, education, housing and over represented in disadvantageous statistics like death tolls in communal crimes or being killed in state violence or being imprisoned without trial and so on, still results in a perception of Muslims as a threat.

It is like asking someone whether they have a pimple forming on their nose. They will touch their nose and examine the smallest hint of a bump and see it as proof that a problem pimple is indeed growing. It is how a stage magician may move his hand in a flourish while saying something in a dramatic manner, while the other hand palms a coin or scribbles a message for the audience to "discover" in full sight of the audience - and yet invisible. Because attention is focused elsewhere. People trying to figure out how the trick was done will continue to imagine that there was something about the flourish and want to examine sleeves and such, but fail to notice the other hand in full view doing the tricky part on the table. If you see enough TV programmes discussing the risk Muslims are to the country, you don't stop to ask why there is a need to discuss Muslims specifically. The unconscious conditioning to see them as a problem that needs to be resolved is already established through what is called a "false dilemma" or "false dichotomy", where you are presented with two choices as the only ones possible, making several illogical assumptions in the process.

If you were to see TV talk shows discussing daily whether apples were healthy at all, regardless of the discussions or conclusions, the fact that there was a need to evaluate the safety profile of apples specifically at all on a daily basis would have you avoiding apples and eating bananas or some other fruit to play it safe. In reality, there is no particular reason to discuss apples with such exceptional intensity. There is nothing wrong with discussing apples either. But the disproportionate attention given to evaluating their safety will make them appear to be unsafe even if discussion after discussion daily affirms after much debate that they are safe - because that affirmation is no conclusion, a new discussion will be required tomorrow - it is not safe. It is an ongoing threat. Better eat the orange. Now, if I sold bananas and wanted more people to switch from apples to bananas... would I have a reason to trigger such paranoia among those I want to manipulate?

This is an important part of propaganda - the delegitimizing of the targeted population. The questioning of every aspect of their existence and needing it to be proved harmless, while the rest of the population is very much similar but bears no scrutiny gives out its own message. The issue is not what these debates conclude. The fact that you devote 80% of TV debates to less than 20% of the population itself is its own signal to the population - here is something that needs you to be alert. The examination of every aspect of a part of the population as though they were aliens also serves another purpose - dehumanization.

Humans inherently are social animals and do not aspire to see themselves as vicious killers or attackers or those depriving others of basic human dignity. Mere differences cannot make a person be okay with inhumanity. For that, the target needs to be dehumanized. It has to be rendered to something less than human. A threat. Something so alien that it feels less pain than us, is more violent than us, is less deserving of compassion than us. This is where impunity for genocides is manufactured. We are in this cold blooded process. And we have no way to elevate the conversation. Partly because these conversations are carefully engineered to avoid targets being seen as humans, but also because those countering have no skills to set their own level of conversation and respond on the same level. Whether you don't talk to me or I don't talk to you, if the end result is a chasm, the objective is achieved.

This manipulated and deliberately propagated insanity is also the reason why there is an increase in violence - both physical and verbal. Violence is the last refuge of the illogical. When a person runs out of words to express their stand, they escalate to violence. As long as there is scope for presenting more and more of their perspective with words, there is no need for violence. But because the propaganda is inherently illogical, a person who believes it has no way of explaining it to one who doesn't, unless they make considerable effort to come up with enough logical fallacies themselves as well. Questioning then becomes a threat, because they are convinced of the threat to them from their targets and any questioning that could undermine it also becomes a threat.

To avoid increasing violence and hostility, we desperately need more clever and well planned conversations. We need the public to develop skills in assessing where their interests lie and when they are being manipulated toward prefering or avoiding something for reasons that are completely irrelevant to them and will likely harm them.

Long term, I think Darwin nailed it. The stupidification itself will erode the mental faculties of those depending on propaganda and with time give increasing advantage to those able to think through it. In the meanwhile, I suppose they will also have to learn how to survive till that point.

2

I saw Arvind Kejriwal's easy dismissal of privacy rights when Ravish Kumar raised the question of privacy with regard to Aam Aadmi Party's promise of installing CCTVs in public places in order to "reduce crime". Other arguments on social media include making Delhi safer for women and so on.

This appears to be a rather reckless and reactive embracing of a solution that appeals to the AAP DNA - "prove it, show documentation" gene so to say. If a crime happened, then the CCTV will be proof to prosecute. Delhi will be safer for women. Absolutes appeal to AAP. Black, white. Aar ya paar, doodh ka doodh... etc

There appears to be a lack of understanding of fundamental rights when Arvind Kejriwal asks Ravish what he does on a street that he would choose to hide. This is not so much unlike other privacy violating arguments governments make and is just as much against civil rights as intercepting email would be.

I may be on the street, but I am not public property, only the street is. If a stranger photographing me on the street without my consent is a violation of my privacy, it doesn't smell sweeter if said stranger is the state. I don't have to have a reason to be refused to photographed. And this personal right cannot be discarded just because the entity taking non-consensual images of me is the state.

To someone interested in privacy rights, Arvind Kejriwal's reply was as ignorant as that of Modi's when he'd blithely dismissed brain drain as a non-issue. These are real issues and if not researched, deserve at least a sober reply that commits to researching them. Here's an example of how security can use such footage to violate your rights.

While it is true that CCTV footage can help identify criminals, an entire city with CCTV coverage creates potential to do a lot more than identify criminals and it is invasive of privacy just as stalking is invasive of privacy. You standing on the same street as me is not a problem, but when you're standing wherever I go, all day, then it is a problem. I may not be doing anything on the street, but I may not want people to have the ability to know where I went and what I did all day, everyday.

The idea that using the streets of Delhi means being okay with being watched wherever you go is very disturbing.

We have already seen footage of couples necking on the Delhi Metro. How long do you think it will take before say college students are blackmailed for money or favors with threats of their families discovering their bunking college or boyfriends or girlfriends? Will the girls of Delhi really be safer with a chauvinistic police force able to watch them daily and perhaps even follow the more interesting of them around the city?

How long before jealous spouses or controlling parents start bribing cops to keep an eye on people who have no idea they are being watched and could unwittingly return home to violence?

For your CCTV to be really effective, it will be a matter of months at most before intelligence agencies start queuing up to put pressure to have unlimited access in the name of security. To catch criminals more effectively, face recognition technology (which also often has false positives) will be "needed".

And these are still scenarios of routine corruption or misuse of power. What happens when a Center that is paranoid of NGOs and already suspected by many to spy on political opposition as well as leaders uses these CCTVs to monitor "national security"?

The Aam Aadmi Party is a party chock full of activists, born in an agitation and is well familiar with just how far a state can go to subvert dissent. What do you think happens if whistleblowers and RTI activists can be monitored across the city using CCTV?

Because these are the uses a CCTV coverage of an entire city can be put too as well. How many times does an escaping criminal need to be identified on an average street, and how many times are vulnerable girls, activists, political adverseries walking down it? What will we be sacrificing for all and who will we be endangering by grabbing what appears to be a quick fix?

Can the Aam Aadmi Party promise to be in power forever? Can it guarantee that the foundations of surveillance it has laid will not victimize the people of Delhi no matter what party is in power?

These questions need close answers. It is not a simple matter of "what do you have to hide?" in a country where people catching the eye of the state don't necessarily have to do wrong to suffer.

In a country where the first victim of a crime is the CCTV footage and over 90% instances of rapes happen off the streets and by people known to the victim (so identifying is not an issue), what miracle is expected from CCTVs to take so much risk with civil liberties?

Is this to say CCTVs are useless? No. They have their advantages, and those advantages could be identified and leveraged. For example:

  1. Creating a separate body with a high degree of safeguards to monitor the CCTVs and for any other entity to require a court order to access footage. The authority can be provided with rights to act at discretion in an emergency to give access it deems necessary to prevent a crime or ensure safety or prevent escape of a criminal with a formal process of explanation later. Such access too can be graded in the sense of officials monitoring cameras providing updates or access to the actual feed from the camera. Thus there is a direct chain of accountability for the use and misuse of the cameras.
  2. Accessing cameras locally rather than centrally for whole city. This would reduce potential for stalking.
  3. Identification of areas that are crime prone where the presence of a CCTV would prevent crime or assist in tracing criminals. For example, if there is a high density of crime in a certain spot, and if the nature of the crimes is such that a CCTV would help identify criminals, then that area could be covered by CCTV instead of carpet bombing the city. Needless to say, the success rate of the cameras installed in fighting crime must be assessed and where there is no measureable impact, the cameras should be removed.
  4. There should be a clear process for determing the scope of the CCTV camera project and assessment of risks to privacy should include privacy rights activists and technology experts from the civil society.

These are just some examples on how to avoid grand and reckless declarations of CCTVing an entire city and do more harm than the scope of even the good intent.

I would appreciate it if Arvind Kejriwal can acknowledge that there are serious questions raised about CCTVs and that he publicly commits to assessing privacy concerns and minimizing risk of misuse before the CCTVs are implemented.

About the promise of WiFi for the entire city, I endorse it wholeheartedly. I think Arvind Kejriwal's answer was somewhat lukewarm on the subject, therefore I would like to point out that WiFi allows anyone with a mobile phone to access the internet, instantly giving voice and access to information to a vast section of society. This is very enriching to democracy by encouraging intellectual capital, access to information and transparency. It will free people to seek information beyond what is packaged and presented to them from all directions and thus is among the few ways still left open that a deteriorating right to information can be bolstered. Thus, free WiFi is a great equalizer and inherently pro-democracy.

1

Dear Dr. Harshavardhan,

Congratulations on becoming the candidate for Chief Minister for Delhi. I am not very aware of your career, but am assured by several people that you were chosen because of your spotless record with regard to corruption. This, in itself is quite remarkable in India, and you should be justifiably proud.

I had never thought I'd have to ask this, but in the interest of citizens knowing what they vote for, these questions become important.

I would like you to answer these questions:

  1. Do you believe women of Delhi are independent citizens in their own right with the fundamental rights and freedoms and protections from law that are due to any citizen of India (with the possible exception of women in Gujarat since it seems a bit disputed at the moment)? And that fundamental rights cannot be overruled by another person just because they would like to?
  2. Will you agree, if elected to obey the law and to not misuse authority vested in you by the people for personal ends and against the people, particularly in activities illegal under current laws?
  3. Do you believe that it is possible for a third person to know that a person is being harassed while the victim voluntarily seeks the company of the supposed harasser? And if so, do you believe that the appropriate action is to not file a police complaint, but to approach you for some off the record "protection"?
  4. Do you believe that parents have the right to use personal connections and off the record Chief Minister and police services to find out information about their adult independent citizen children without their informed consent - information that the adult independent citizen children may not voluntarily give them? (whether someone is in their hotel room at 11pm, for example)
  5. Do you believe that a consensual relationship between adults can be termed as harassment and intervened off the record by the state if the parents of one or more people involved in it don't like it?
  6. Do you believe that a Chief Minister is obliged to violate the rights of citizens if requested by a personal friend or relative or business contact or any other non-authority?

Additionally, it would be nice if you stated your views on surveillance.

I understand that the questions are rather offensive and amount to a questioning of your character and integrity, when you have been chosen specifically for those; and I regret that this is so. However the current BJP stand on some alarming revelations on illegal surveillance makes these questions necessary as it appears that there is a misunderstanding on what an accountable state is and what citizen rights are. I am sure you will agree that it is important that citizens knowingly vote for a Chief Minister whose views on their rights is acceptable to them.

I understand that the questions may seem a little repetitive with very minor differences, but I request you to indulge the paranoia of a woman seriously rattled by the prospect that the freedoms she believed she had may not be present in the eyes of the state at all. For someone like me, my parents coming to know everything I do would likely be very offensive and not entirely good for my parent's health either, though they may be foolish enough to want it, if they came across a willing Chief Minister.

Urgent replies will be appreciated, as there isn't much time for the polls.

Sincerely,

An extremely alarmed citizen.

(This post has been written by Vidyut on behalf of a Delhi citizen who would rather not be named, but wants to know these answers)

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The article "A new look at child abuse" details this kind of harm and I think it is worth reading to understand what exactly happens because of our schools other than marks and rote learning.  And people not "in" on the vision are getting disenfranchised. Schools are simply creating templates of people with preinstalled data. It is like buying a computer with a large library of ebooks of all sorts installed. How many of them are useful to you? And people are not things. Waste of space on a computer is one thing, but we are spending over a decade of children's lives and taking away their freedom for what?

And it doesn't make them feel secure.

The thing is, it is not working. Even as literacy rises we are plagued by unemployment, recruiters are talking about scarcity of employable candidates - the products of this education system. The simple matter is that education does not do what it advertises. It doesn't prepare people for jobs. With the lack of respect for menial jobs, education triggers a lot of migration to cities for jobs "worthy" of their education. There is wholesale neglect of vital work necessary for survival on a national level - farmers, weavers, other workers, transporters...

Traditional occupations are dying out. Be it a horseman, weaver, blacksmith, cobbler, farmer, whatever. To continue this kind of work in spite of education would be deemed as failure - a waste of an education that was a waste of time - if you don't use it, then you are forced to face the wastage, no? Traditional art forms, crafts are dying out, because those artisans are also not on the approved list. Occupations that were once hereditary are going extinct because education has made them shameful.

Even teaching is not on the "whitelist" of respectworthy occupations, and most teachers become teachers when they run out of alternatives. These are the people shaping the minds of upcoming generations.

The thing is, this can't survive, because we'll end up broke and starving like this. We need intellectual capital in all directions rather than make an Olympic sport out of education as though no further utility is needed and breaking records is the glory.

In another article, School Reloaded, I make the distinction between teaching and learning and share several ideas about learning centers that are empowering to the people learning in them. About learning environments that are learning friendly. Those ideas are ideals, rather than practical, but they create an awareness of how learning can be.

But at the root of all this lies the nature of education itself and the dramatic changes it will have to go through if it is to remain relevant as a resource to citizens.

  • From teaching to facilitating: The approach needs to shift from "things to know" and their "right answers" and focus on encouraging interests, curiosity, finding out, finding areas of "don't know" to investigate.
  • More practical, vocational. Learning that can allow students to start working and earning. With access to developing emotional intelligence skills that make us functional when working with others. Being sensitive. - will also combat the widespread dehumanization plaguing society.
  • Dignity. I had wanted to say "of labour" but I think all kinds of dignity is needed. Write it into the constitution if you wish, but dignity should be a fundamental right, no matter what, if cutting edge intellectuals are to flourish (among other things). Having a novel idea, perspective should not mean attacks. That stupidifies the population. Debate and discard ideas, but people must be inviolate if we are to maintain a learning environment.
  • Acceptance of ambiguity, incorrect "answers", unanswered questions. This is the bleeding edge of learning that current education seals shut. Most of our learning comes from not knowing and finding out. When you notice the conversations with rigid people not open to ideas, the first symptom is that they are never wrong. Thus, they never update.

But the greatest shift that needs to happen is from a perspective of free learning. Human knowledge is growing. You cannot expect to convert it into subjects and standardize it flat for all kids to know it in exactly the same way - dead. It will be too unwieldy, if at all it is possible. Also, it is insane to learn about water along with all biology, then again with physics, then again as art, poetry, whatever. Water IS. Specialized understanding can come later, but kids need a whole perspective like - that stream of water is from molten snow and has minerals and will fix dehydration and can be thrown on someone for holi, and a shower uses less water than a bath.... ideas are chain reactions - don't cage them, because you silence the ones you can't find cages for.

The world is now fast. Knowledge updates fast. Living learning is one that unfolds as you watch. You can't predict it, though you can pursue based on interests. All this needs accounted for, in designing learning experiences rather than syllabus. Essentially, from having teachers who can deliver the final word on something, we need facilitators with skills to make knowledge and experiences accessible - regardless of subject. And the ability to transfer these sourcing skills to students. Facilitators whose responsibility should be to maintain a learning environment, where the nature of learning is highly individualized and determined by those using it - the children. More on this in School Reloaded.

But needless to say, exams are useless as conclusions of learning. It is absurd to conclude learning in the first place. More useful to open specialized learning with entrance exams.

It is here that the RTE is taking us back two centuries by obsessing with syllabus. It is quite hideous that some schools for tribals that were run by emminent PhDs volunteering their time and wisdom get into trouble because they weren't qualified teachers and there was no standardized syllabus! The same kids who were out of reach of the nearest school anyway. Talk of lobotomy!

We need to scrap the whole RTE except for "send kids to school" and detox an entire population from their dependency on manufactured parcels of learning. Wean parents off the addiction with numbers indicating performance like a cricket score. We have made an Olympic sport out of education. An achievement rather than a tool. Total bull shit.

If after ten years of basic schooling, a child is fit for no job, then the education system has failed. Unless it is a profession with specialized training, kids out of school should be fit to find any work if they want. Those kinds of experiences, knowledge should be accessible to them based on their curiosity.

Most of all, rural schools MUST have access to cutting edge information on rural occupations - be it pottery, poultry, agriculture, green living, whatever. Though frankly once we break free of subjects, all things are accessible everywhere. But those would be easiest to set up in their environment, and they would lead to innovation and development. It would prevent the brain drain from the villages and instead empower the villages to a whole new level of existence.

Ideally, this duration should be five years or less. There is no need for a kid's life to be dedicated to some institution throughout childhood. It is too much. Kids have to give up free fun to prepare for growing up. This is ridiculous! You don't grudge a three hour film unless you get something out of it. Stop inflicting it on kids just because they don't have the power to rock this boat.

Discard these stingy packets of information and throw open the world to kids - but first those schools will have to be created. Those facilitators will have to be identified, developed, skilled.

The future of education is in becoming extinct and making way for learning.