On July 6, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia launched a project for CCTV camera installation in all Delhi government schools, PTI reported. A Lajpat Nagar government school, Shaheed Hemu Kalani Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya, became the first Delhi government school where CCTVs were installed inside all the classrooms to enhance the security of students, IANS reported. At the event, Kejriwal called it a “historic milestone” and said that over 1,000 Delhi government schools would be equipped with CCTV cameras by November. Under the project, two cameras will be installed in each classroom, and the entire school premises, except loos, will be under surveillance. The live feed will be monitored from a control room.

Kejriwal further said that private schools have also been directed to install CCTV cameras, and will be “strictly” asked to implement the order, PTI reported. It is unclear if this means that private schools will also have to install CCTV cameras inside all classrooms.

A Delhi government spokesperson had earlier clarified to MediaNama that these camera installations are not a part of the Delhi government’s larger project to blanket the city with 1.4 lakh CCTV cameras.

Live feed for parents

According to the government, parents of children will be provided live feeds of classrooms through a mobile app. Kejriwal said, “… perhaps this is the first instance where live feeds from every classroom are being provided to parents through a mobile app”, as per the IANS report. Parents will only be able to access the feed for their own child’s classroom, using a password that the school will give them.

In addition, the school principal, the concerned Deputy Director of Education, the Director of Education, and the Education Minister will all have access to live feeds and delayed feeds for one month.

How will the app work?

PTI reported that the live feed of the CCTV cameras will be available to parents through the DGS Live app on Google Play Store. After downloading the app, parents will receive an SMS from the government control room. They will be able to access live classroom feed after proper verification. It is unclear what this verification process will entail. MediaNama has reached out to the Delhi government for more details.

Aim: To deter crime and misconduct

Kejriwal, who recently visited a six-year-old rape survivor, said that “there are some perverted elements in society who have no fear of consequences”. CCTV coverage, he said, would not only help the police collect evidence but also serve as a tool of deterrence, as per the IANS report. The chief minister further said that access for parents to live footage would prevent students from bunking class and misbehaving, and thus, have a positive impact on their education.

Sisodia also pointed out that with these cameras, no one will be able to falsely accuse teachers of skipping classes. He said, “During the pilot of this project, I was concerned that everyone may not like CCTVs inside classrooms but I was surprised to find that both students and teachers gave a positive response to the project. We have observed an identifiable improvement in the behaviour of children in the schools where this project was piloted.”

Children go to school for education, not privacy: Kejriwal

On the matter of children’s privacy, Kejriwal said that children did not come to school for any private activity, but for education and discipline. Furthermore, he said that access to live footage meant that the “government [was] accountable to you for every minute your child spends in our schools”. He said that this is what “a real democracy looked like”, where elected representatives could be questioned. “If you find that there was something wrong with the classes on any day, you can question the government about it. If any CCTV camera is damaged then parents can immediately hold us accountable and ask why they’re not able to view feeds,” he said.

In May, a PIL was filed against the Delhi government, challenging its decision to install CCTV cameras in government schools, ANI had reported. It stated that the installation of 1.5 lakh cameras in all classrooms and live streaming the feed would put “psychological pressure” on children in addition to compromising their privacy. The Supreme Court bench, constituting Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna, had refused to halt the government’s project and sought its response within 6 weeks. Since the 6-week period has lapsed, it is unclear what the status of the petition is. MediaNama has reached out to the Delhi government for more details.

***Update (July 12, 2019 4:31 pm): This article erroneously read that the Delhi High Court had refused to halt the government’s project. It has been corrected to the Supreme Court.

Read more: Dear Delhi government, CCTV cameras inside classrooms are a bad idea