Concerned over the rise in surveillance of sanitation workers, Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) and All India Lawyers Association for Justice (AILAJ) on May 30 wrote to the National Commission for 'Safai Karamcharis' urging them to intervene in the matter and register a complaint with relevant authorities. Apart from IFF and AILAJ, five other organisations and several individuals are signatories to the letter.
In the letter, IFF and AILAJ raised concerns about sanitation workers from Ranchi, Chandigarh, Nagpur and Ghaziabad being allegedly forced to wear global positioning system-enabled tracking devices by authorities.
"Ostensibly, the use of GPS enabled tracking devices is to record attendance of the Safai Karamcharis, monitor their work performance, and to safeguard against any falsification of attendance. However, the tracking devices would essentially enable the constant and dehumanising surveillance of Safai Karamcharis by the authorities," the letter read.
IFF and AILAJ in the letter also pointed out that the sanitation workers predominantly belonged to Dalit, Adivasi and other oppressed sections of the society, and opined that the surveillance was proliferating caste discrimination faced by such workers.
The letter states that the constant surveillance does not satisfy the thresholds which the Right to Privacy judgement grants for any intrusion by the State on privacy. "While privacy is not an absolute right, any state intrusion into privacy has to satisfy the thresholds of legality, necessity, and proportionality, laid down by the Supreme Court in the Right to Privacy decision. However, the use of tracking devices on Safai Karamcharis fails to satisfy these thresholds..."
IFF and AILAJ reasoned that there was no anchoring legislation or legal framework that supported such surveillance. "Secondly, there is no clear understanding of the necessity of this action as different deployments have indicated different objectives..," the letter read. Third, the surveillance was disproportionate, it added.