India Human Efficiency Tracking System sanitation worker surveillance

The Human Efficiency Tracking System (HETS) is used to monitor sanitation workers in the Indian city of Chandigarh and six other municipalities in India. 

Officials at the Command and Control Center of the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation (CMC) say the watches, which are equipped with GPS trackers, a microphone, a SIM embedded for calling workers, and a camera, enable them to validate proof of attendance, weed out fake, duplicate and false workers, and improve operational efficiencies.

Workers are forced to wear watches equipped with the system so that their movements can be monitored in real-time and pay deducted if they depart from algorithmically pre-determined set work schedules or routes.

Operator: Chandigarh Municipal Corporation; Panchkula Municipal Corporation
Developer: S&T Investment Holding/Imtac India

Country: India

Sector: Govt - municipal

Purpose: Increase productivity

Technology: Smartwatch; GPS
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Accountability; Bias/discrimination; Employment; Privacy; Surveillance

Transparency: Governance

Risks and harms 🛑

India's Human Efficiency Tracking System (HETS) has been criticised for violating privacy, misusing personal data, unnecessary surveillance, and eroding individual autonomy, resulting in social discrimination and violations of human rights. 

The CMC has been criticised for normalising the intrusive surveillance of individuals, undermining worker agency, and restricting channels of negotiation and grievance redress. It also seen to have forced predominantly contract lower caste Dalit street sweepers to wear GPS-enabled efficiency trackers.

Some sweepers complain the watches are inaccurate, locating them in other cities and resulting in lost wages, and say they must be worn outside work, raising privacy concerns. They must also be charged overnight on their own account. Others report feeling giddy after wearing the watches.

According to Krishan Kumar Chadha, the former president of the Chandigarh Sanitation Workers’ Union, taking a tracker off incurs a fine of USD 3 to USD 4, or half a day’s salary, though this is denied by the municipality. Losing a tracker costs a worker USD 107 to USD 134, almost a month’s salary, according to the Chandigarh Sanitation Workers’ Union.

Transparency 🙈

The government says that the tracking devices bring transparency to the workplace and prevent workers from allowing someone else to stand in for them. 

But sanitation workers complain they are never provided with information clarifying what the watches do, how they work, or how their data is stored. Neither are they asked to give their consent.

Research, advocacy 🧮

Page info
Type: System
Published: December 2022
Last updated: January 2024