India Human Efficiency Tracking System sanitation worker surveillance

Released: 2019
Occurred: May 2022

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Over 4,000 sanitation workers in the Indian city of Chandigarh and six other municipalities are being forced to wear watches equipped with a so-called Human Efficiency Tracking System (HETS) so that their movements can be monitored in real-time.

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.

Each watch also generates a unique ID for each worker that is linked to their personal information including their name, employee ID, salary account and Aadhaar number.

Reaction

Despite the claimed increased productivity driven by the tracking system, commentary mostly castigates the CMC for forcing predominantly contract lower caste Dalit street sweepers to wear GPS-enabled efficiency trackers, with little regard for ethics, privacy, or security.

Some sweepers complain the watches are often 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. Some workers reported feeling giddy after wearing the watches.

The CMC is rewarded under India's national Swachh Survekshan rankings, an annual index of the 'cleanest' cities. The Human Efficiency Tracking System is said to have been implemented in seven municipal corporations: Mysore, Lucknow, Indore, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Nagpur, and Chandigarh.

According to Krishan Kumar Chadha, the former president of the Chandigarh Sanitation Workers’ Union, taking it 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 system and prevent workers from allowing someone else to stand in for them.

However, 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.

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; Employment - compensation; working conditions; Privacy; Surveillance; Security

Transparency: Governance; Privacy