If you thought sting operations were the exclusive domain of journalists, whistleblowers and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) members, think again. Be it women facing harassment at work or simply an aam aadmi trying to expose corruption, more and more Delhiites are relying on spycams to ‘make their case’.
The devices are available for as less as Rs 2,000, can record for upto eight hours and be hidden in just about anything. A store in west Delhi’s Shadipur offers spycams fitted in mosquito repellants, table clocks, calendars, televisions, neck-ties, pendants, room fresheners and even shaving cream tubes.
According to some spycam sellers, business picked up with AAP’s first stint in Delhi. “The demand surged the last time AAP was in power. Corruption bahut kam hua hai (there has been a decline in corruption) because people know there can be a spycam anywhere,” said HR Chauhan, who has been running a spycam business in Dwarka for a decade now.
Though the admissibility of spycam recordings in courts is debatable, the demand keeps growing.
“Just yesterday I sold a spycam to two girls fed up of harassment in their office. Different kinds of people come to us. It may be a secretary planning to expose her boss or people involved in property. Those trying to bust corruption buy it often,” Chauhan added.
For some, the spycam is a solution to day-to-day troubles. “Every morning there would be a pile of garbage outside our front door. We suspected the aunty living right across. So we ordered a spycam to be fitted in the peep-hole,” said Arzu Ahmed, a resident of Vasant Kunj. “She could have spotted a CCTV camera. We wanted to catch her red-handed and show it to the RWA. But sadly she moved out before the camera arrived.”
Spycams were earlier imported from China and Israel but increasing demand has forced traders to set up their own R&D wings. Shadipur is fast becoming a hub where dingy one-room houses double-up as workshops. Most traders sell these gadgets online and the prices can go up to Rs 50,000.
“We usually get 20-30 orders from across the country every day. We have so many prototypes to choose from. And there is the option of cash on delivery,” said a trader who did not wish to be named.
While many use spycams for self-protection and to unearth the truth, for many others it’s a means of revenge or blackmail. Cameras installed in shaving cream and toothpaste tubes or electrical sockets costing anything around Rs 5,000 and go unnoticed in a bathroom. “Spycams can be useful and harmful both. We just respond to the demand. We always cooperate if the police require any information from us,” the trader said.
Sociologists blame the government for making spying so fashionable. “Public, bureaucracy, government and the police do not trust each other. Government keeps things secret and people want to break the code,” said social scientist Ashis Nandy.