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April 1, 2017

A month after the breaking of the metaphorical “pinjra”, IITR has seen a palpable change in the levels of security and surveillance employed in the campus. One of the oft cited challenges to the free-campus movement was the lack of security and the porous nature of our campus. In a fitting response to these issues, the administration has upped the supervision in the institute to previously unforeseen standards with even greater levels anticipated in the future. Upon a closer examination of these measures, there have been some unsettling discoveries that have caught our eye and refuse to let go of it.

The low down

The security of the campus can be broadly analysed through the lens of the Human Resource employed and the technology accompanying them. As a first and warranted step, there has been a significant increase in the number of guards patrolling the campus. However, incredulity kicked in when we came across the plan to employ a group of three female and two males to observe vigilance across certain hotspots. The move bears an uncanny resemblance to a policing tactic employed in a neighbouring state. Referred by an uncalled smearing of one of Shakespeare’s chief protagonists, that move has seen considerable flak from various sections of the society for it aims at outright moral policing and privacy breach. We can only hope that this likeness in implementation is not driven by a likeness in vision and aims.

Respect my authoritah

Our mild incredulity grew stronger upon learning the technological upgrades planned under this security overhaul. We would like to start by outlining the planned purchase of TASER guns and Heat Vision goggles for the security guards. This is accompanied by the acceptable aim of ramping up CCTV surveillance, in and around uncharted territories such as the dark corners of the Civil Department and places where students usually visit in groups of two. The increased security measures would cost the administration Rs 3 cr per year along with a onetime cost of Rs 4 cr for equipments and installation. One can get a decent idea of what this means by comparing with the institute’s annual medical expenses of Rs 3.5 cr and academic scholarship/fellowship spending of Rs 8.5 crore.

A member of the administration, when questioned about why there was such an indifference towards the student populace’s right to freedom, completely discredited the question, while showing concern about the motives of the students who find themselves out of their hostels late at night.

“When the students were protesting for a restriction-free campus, they argued that they would use this freedom towards constructive purposes like working in the various technical and cultural societies. However, now we hear cases of students wandering around with no purpose, holding hands and engaging in what we believe are just frivolous activities for students of this age. We expect the students to be more responsible.”

He further went on to say that if more such students are observed in the coming days, the administration might have to revoke the liberty that was handed to the students. This comment was a rather unwelcome one, considering the fact that a majority of the IIT Roorkee students have never had a chance to ‘hold hands’ with someone they’d like to.

Our incredulity snowballed into utter disbelief when we were told of an intended purchase of Drones to kick start the much more effective and consequently intrusive aerial surveillance. With drones envisioned to be a part of the IIT Roorkee airspace, what this means for the student community and SDS’s yearly exhibition is something that only time will tell.

Our two cents of wisdom

We are still unsure of why these measures are being taken, as the institute rules do not categorically ban any forms of PDA. This move clearly questions the students’ morality and instead of being a protective measure, it is more of a privacy breach. There is a fine line between campus security and privacy invasion, and it is ironical how, in spite of being promised “freedom” through the Pinjra Tod movement, the students are still under the watchful eyes of the inner party.

That being said, Watch Out would like to caution all the students to tread carefully post-midnight and avoid giving the authorities a chance to hold things against us. After all, trying to contain your raging hormones is better than being contained in your hostels post 11.