Skip to main content

Survey: Gujarat tops in 'supporting' digital surveillance to curb opposition, protests

By Rajiv Shah 

In a surprise revelation, which may send shock wave among those who consider agitations as a democratic right and believe this right is being eroded by the powers-that-be, nearly 95 percent of the respondents in a recent survey in Gujarat have justified the government’s use of CCTV as a means to control political movements of all sorts.
The highest in India, this is followed by two-thirds of the respondents from Uttar Pradesh and Haryana (65% and 64% respectively) completely supporting CCTV use for clamping down on protests. The result comes amidst sharp increase in mobile surveillance and drones by the police in the recent past in these States.
Says the report, “A State-wise analysis revealed that in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, more than 85 percent believed that the use of CCTVs by the police in their areas has increased”, adding, “More than two out of three respondents from Gujarat reported a significant increase in the use of mobile surveillance and drone technologies by the police in their localities in the past 4-5 years.”
The survey, carried out by Delhi-based non-profits Common Cause and Lokniti – Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), and titled “Status of Policing in India Report 2023 Surveillance and the Question of Privacy” (SPIR 2023), also reveals that, in sharp contrast, respondents from West Bengal, Punjab and Karnataka “were not as enthusiastic in their support.”
“Only one-third of the respondents (29%) from Bengal completely justified the use of surveillance footage to curb dissent. The number is slightly higher in Punjab (36%) and Karnataka (37%)”, it notes.
Seeking to explore public opinions and experiences regarding digital surveillance, SPIR 2023 has been prepared against the backdrop of “recent developments, such as the Supreme Court's recognition of the right to privacy and discussions surrounding data protection, have intensified debates around privacy and surveillance”, the report claims.
It has also been prepared in context of recent concerns regarding “allegations of illegal government surveillance using the Pegasus spyware and the enactment of the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022, which grants police the power to collect biometric information from suspects and detainees”, it adds.
In order to prepare the report, Common Cause, in collaboration with the Lokniti Programme of CSDS, conducted a face-to-face survey with 9,779 individuals across 12 Indian States and UTs to understand perceptions around digital surveillance. At the same time, the organisers conducted Focused Group Discussions (FGDs) with “domain experts, in-depth interviews with serving police officials, and an analysis of media coverage of surveillance-related issues”.
Admitting that the survey suggests “a lack of public awareness regarding critical issues” pertaining to “digital surveillance by the government”, helping the authorities to easily to go in for curbs on “freedom of expression”, the report underlines, however, the “support for any form of surveillance decreases with a decline in the respondent's socioeconomic status”, with the “poor, Adivasis, Dalits, and Muslims” being “least trustful of the police.”
Regarding the overall use of drones by state agencies, a State-wise comparisons suggest that respondents from Gujarat (81%) and Uttar Pradesh (72%) showed substantially high levels of support. Respondents from Karnataka (60%) also indicated moderate support, but relatively higher opposition to this was seen in Punjab (17%) and West Bengal (17%).
At the same time, the report notes, “Across the occupation category, the lowest levels of support were observed amongst farmers (14%)”, adding, “Relatively lower levels of support for drone usage by government agencies amongst farmers is a noteworthy finding, especially in view of the fact that the Centre has been pushing for incentivising the use of drones for farming.”
Coming to the impact of surveillance by police and government through drones on people, while across India four of every ten (43%) respondents said that it is justified ‘to a great extent’, “Significant support came from States such as Gujarat (63%), UP (57%) and Delhi (56%). In contrast, the opposing States were Kerala (30%) and Punjab (14%)”.
Also, “the highest proportion of respondents from Gujarat supported the usage of drones by the police for law enforcement (95%), followed by Kerala, (94%) and Andhra Pradesh (91%); while Assam, Karnataka, and Punjab stood at the opposite end of the spectrum”, the report says, adding, “Those from Assam were least likely to support police usage of drone for rule enforcement, those from Gujarat were most likely to support.”
At the same time, pointing out that “over four of five people in Gujarat support drone usage by government to quell dissent”, the report notes, “While doing a State-wise comparative analysis, we found that in BJP-ruled States such as Gujarat (85%), Haryana (67%), and Uttar Pradesh (65%), the support for using drones for curbing political protest was highest”.
On being asked if they felt that political parties view their photos, messages, videos or searched objects from their phones or computers, the report says, “A little less than two-thirds, about 65 percent, disagreed.” But out of the 16 percent that agreed, a significant proportion of 27 percent belonged to Gujarat and Karnataka. “Conversely, a significant proportion of respondents from Kerala (83%) and Tamil Nadu (74%) disagreed that political parties can view their data.”
Ironically, despite wide support to digital surveillance, fear on its usage prevailed among large sections. Thus, “those in Haryana (41%), Gujarat (33%), and Delhi (32%) were very scared of provoking legal action by expressing their political opinions online, whereas in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Kerala not many people exhibit their fear of legal action for posting political or social opinion.”
Asked whether they think the police should be able to collect the biometric details (such as fingerprint, footprint, iris, retina scan, facial recognition, etc.) of all suspects, including those who haven’t been declared guilty by the court, while close to half (48%) across India agreed that police should be allowed to collect such details, “a large proportion of the respondents from Haryana (74%), Gujarat (69%) and Delhi - NCT (65%) were of the opinion that police should have this power.”
“Conversely”, the report states, “A significant proportion of respondents from Tamil Nadu (56%) and Karnataka (54%) were of the opinion that police should not be allowed to possess such powers. Those belonging to the Adivasi community (44%) were significantly more likely to oppose giving the power to the police to collect biometric data, as compared to the general caste group (28%).”


This is, indeed, surprising. I have a feeling that the questionnaire was not worded properly.


'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site The article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

BSF should take full responsibility for death of 4 kids in West Bengal: Rights defender

By Kirity Roy*  One is deeply disturbed and appalled by the callous trench-digging by BSF in Chetnagachh village under Daspara Gram Panchayat, Chopra, North Dinajpur District, West Bengal that has claimed the lives of four children. Along the entire stretch of Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal instead of guarding the actual border delineated by the international border pillars, BSF builds fences and digs trenches well inside the Indian territory, passing through villages and encroaching on private lands, often without due clearance or consent. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Don't agree on domestic subsidies, ensure food security at WTO meet: Farmer leaders

Counterview Desk  The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), a top network of farmers’ organizations in India, in a letter to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, has asked him to “safeguard food security and sovereignty, even as ensuring peasants' rights" at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC 13), to take place from 26 to 29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

Students, lawyers, professors detained in Delhi for demonstrating in support of farmers

By Our Representative  About 25 protestors, belonging to the civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a coalition of over 40 organisations, were detained at Jantar Mantar for holding a demonstration in support of the farmers' stir on Friday. Those detained included students, lawyers and professors, including Prof Nandita Narain and Prof N Sachin. 

Social justice day amidst 'official neglect' of salt pan workers in Little Rann of Kutch

By Prerana Pamkar*  In India’s struggle for Independence, the Salt Satyagraha stands as a landmark movement and a powerful symbol of nonviolent resistance. Led by Mahatma Gandhi, countless determined citizens walked from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi in Gujarat. However, the Gujarat which witnessed the power of the common Indian during the freedom struggle is now in the throes of another significant movement: this time it is seeking to free salt pan workers from untenable working conditions in the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK).

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Interpreting UAPA bail provisions: Is Supreme Court setting the clock back?

By Kavita Srivastava*, Dr V Suresh** The Supreme Court in its ruling on 7th February, 2024 in   `Gurvinder Singh v State of Punjab’ held that its own well-developed jurisprudence that "Bail is the rule and jail the exception" will not apply to those charged under the UAPA.

Jallianwala massacre: Why Indian govt hasn't ever officially sought apology from UK

By Manjari Chatterjee Miller*  The king of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, apologized in July 2023 for his ancestors’ role in the colonial slave trade. He is not alone in expressing remorse for past wrongs. In 2021, France returned 26 works of art seized by French colonial soldiers in Africa – the largest restitution France has ever made to a former colony. In the same year, Germany officially apologized for its 1904-08 genocide of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia and agreed to fund reconstruction and development projects in Namibia. .

Will Budget 2024 help empower city govts, make them India's growth engines?

By Soumyadip Chattopadhyay, Arjun Kumar* Cities in India are envisioned as engines of growth. Any meaningful long-term vision for India would be incomplete without planning for the cities and quite rightly, urbanization is considered as one of the country’s top developmental challenges. Realization of full potential of cities depends crucially on their ability to provide ‘enabling’ environment especially in terms of sustained provision of a wide range of urban infrastructure and services.