Delhi Metro CCTV footage leak: How it exposes our moral duplicity

Social media is abuzz with news that cctv footage of couples in compromising positions captured by Delhi Metro cameras have been leaked to porn sites. The leak has been greeted with adolescent -- and elitist -- snickering instead of the serious concern it deserves.

In a post suitably called 'A very Indian Intimacy', London-based photographer Stuart Freedman's travels to a park at India Gate in Delhi. A pretty young woman in a bright pink salwar kameez is seen intently looking at a man in front of her. The couple is holding hands and are married - the speck of vermillion on the woman's forehead is an indication of the same.

You'd wonder why a married couple would have to find their way to a public park to seek intimacy, but that's the reality for thousands of Indian couples in India. Even in moderately moneyed middle class families, the concept of privacy is a fairly problematic one with married couples having to share residential space and time with joint families. This Bank of India commercial fairly captures the several dimensions of the issue, even as it tries to peddle home loans.

A crowded Delhi Metro station. AFP.

A crowded Delhi Metro station. AFP.

However, this particular manifestation of economic inequality doesn't even come up in the popular discourses around equality. Economist Abhijit Banerjee had noted in an article that India has a country has little sympathy to the unequal access to sex that several Indians suffer from. He says:

What are we doing as a society to reduce inequality of access to sex? I don’t mean publicly funded brothels — though those are not unknown in history — but just the right to a normal conjugal life. If you are poor in urban India or even middle class and 25, you have be very lucky to have a room of your own in the family home, let alone a separate apartment that you can call your own.

The issue is evident in the way the leakage of the Delhi Metro CCTV footage has turned into a debate on morality. The fact that the footage, which is supposed to be guarded by the DMRC and the CISF, was leaked to porn sites points at the seamy practices inside an elite government security force and a premier government administrative body.

However, instead of being outraged over the inefficacy of government agencies the debate on social media quickly shifted to the moral standards of the couples who were taped getting intimate in the empty trains.

While some found the news amusing enough for wisecracks, other didn't bat an eyelid before calling the couples caught on the cameras, 'perverts'. Following are some tweets on the same lines:




What could be the other, more serious implications of this leak? The fact that either the CISF or DMRC has employees who are given full access to footage and hence can misuse them. Given how important CCTV footage is during important investigations, one can imagine how easy it'll possibly be to bribe and get the people in charge to tamper with important proof if there was to be a case built on evidence like that.

Also, if the leak is an indicator of the psychological make-up of the people involved, one can only imagine how alert they are while monitoring the CCTV footage for security issues. Let's remind ourselves that the CCTVs are installed for the sole purpose of watching out for possibilities of security breaches.

However, trust a country like India to turn the issue into a moral debate and shake their learned heads at the inappropriate behaviour of the couples with little regard for the more serious issues of privacy, surveillance, and the use of data procured for supposedly security purposes.

Updated Date: Jul 10, 2013 14:06 PM

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