The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to technological solutionism in India. From the usage of drones to watch over a particular area, to the mandatory use of Aarogya Setu for tracking who might be infected, from hyperdigitalisation affecting the accessibility of financial information and services in rural areas, to the digital literacy gap making ASHA worker’s jobs even more difficult - technological solutions to curb the pandemic affect and control people from various marginalised communities differently, and have resulted in stigmatisation and discrimination, in fear and lack of trust. But can these measures help in containing the pandemic effectively? Do they take into account the gender gap in technology? Do they address broader issues relating to bodily integrity, dignity and the right to privacy? What could imbibe trust and the value of care into the government systems that are supposed to provide essential services to people? Are these measures the way forward?
Our work finds that people from marginalised communities such as Women, Dalits, Muslims, trans sex workers, migrant labourers, and others face a disproportionate impact of surveillance. This Zine is an account of the experiences of people from such communities. It narrates how technological surveillance restricts the mobility and agency of people from these communities. It is an attempt to amplify these voices from the grassroots to make targeted demands from the State and to aid the State in making evidence-based policies to improve the conditions of the affected people.
The Zine draws upon qualitative research carried out for the paper, ‘“I took Allah’s name and stepped out”: Bodies, Data and Embodied Experiences of Surveillance and Control during COVID-19 in India’, by Radhika Radhakrishnan. This research is part of the Internet Democracy Project’s work for the Data Governance Network.