New Delhi, Jan. 9: Delhi denizens no longer need to live their selfless bounty hunter dreams by working on the drawl: “Are you packing heat?”
“Are you packing a spy cam?” will be a more apt opening line as they step into the high-adrenaline world of graft-busters.
Several people appear to be kitting themselves up for such an adventure after chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced an anti-corruption helpline and gave a clarion call to “sting” the corrupt.
Palika Bazaar, the underground market known for cheap electronics goods in Connaught Place, has become the first-stop saloon for those riding out to the town square for a shootout with the band of bribe-takers.
Shop owners at Palika said they were pleasantly surprised this morning, less than 24 hours after Kejriwal had announced the number (011-27357169).
“A man wearing an Aam Aadmi cap today bought 100 spy cameras hidden in pens. This is the first time we have sold such a huge number of spy cameras in a single day,” said Manoj Sharma, the owner of Electronic Palace.
By afternoon, Ajay Sethia sold only one-tenth of what Sharma did but he is not complaining. “Around 150 people visited our shops and enquired about spy cameras and voice recorders. Many of them have bought too. It’s simply Kejriwalji’s impact. We hope to have roaring business the next few days,” Sethia added.
Anyone with shopping experience at Palika will not take any figure quoted there without a huge pinch of salt. But the array of gadgets on display on the counters suggests that the market is expecting business to pick up.
Would-be graft-busters will be spoilt for choice. Pinhole cameras are embedded in a host of everyday accessories like pens, key chains, pen drives, wristwatches and spectacles. These cameras, apparently made in China, are capable of recording for several hours, according to the shopkeepers.
The hottest device on the table is the spy pen, probably because of the price of Rs 500 and the relative ease with which it can be placed and activated.
What Kejriwal has done is open up a market where demand was largely driven by spouses suspecting infidelity or parents keen to keep tabs on nannies.
Kejriwal has said every citizen is now an anti-corruption crusader in Delhi, which should trigger a boom in spy cam business if the citizens follow their chief minister in letter and spirit.
He said people with credible complaints would be advised by an anti-corruption department official on how to conduct a sting in visual or audio mode. Once the sting is done, the person should get back to the adviser, following which a trap will be laid to catch the accused.
On the first day, the helpline had received nearly 4,000 calls till afternoon. Of these, 53 were found to be of serious nature, the chief minister said. ( )
At Palika, at least one shop owner touched upon an issue that found an echo in a lawyer and some police officers. “It means good business for us but this kind of strategy will not help. Now everybody will be suspicious of everyone,” said the shopkeeper who did not want to be named and be called a spoilsport.
The lawyer and police officers cautioned that these devices were open to abuse and could lead to invasion of privacy unless they were in responsible hands.
“They can be used for blackmail and cyber crimes and to invade privacy. The Indian government does not have any mechanism to regulate the open sale of surveillance equipment and there is a need to check the abuse of spy equipment,” said Supreme Court lawyer Pawan Duggal who specialises in cyber cases.
Referring to Kejriwal’s call to the citizens, Duggal said: “The intention is noble but it should not be used as a licence to disrobe people’s privacy. It should be used with due diligence. But who will keep tabs on whether these people are misusing it?”
An IPS officer said: “The idea is frightening and will lead to suspicion in everybody’s mind. These spying devices should be in the possession of investigation agencies. I think this will create a lot of problems in the day-to-day functioning of the government machinery.”
According to Duggal, the easy availability of such gadgets in the open market is alarming.
Penal provisions of up to three years in jail exist for recording objectionable images of a person without consent. But the law is silent on the sale of surveillance equipment as long as it is not misused and when it does not concern the safety and security of India’s sovereignty, Duggal added.