HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Sunday, March 26, 2023

COVID-19 Surveillance in India: A Bridge Too Far

Vrinda Bhandari (Independent), COVID-19 Surveillance in India: A Bridge Too Farin Private and Controversial: When Public Health and Privacy Meet in India (Parsheera ed., Harper Collins, New Delhi) (2022):

This chapter evaluates the surveillance measures undertaken by the Central Govt. and various state governments in India during the Covid-19 pandemic. It presents a comprehensive mapping of the different types of physical and digital surveillance measures adopted by the state and by certain private actors to deal with the COVID situation. The chapter classifies these measures based on the underlying functions of symptom tracking, mobility and density mapping, quarantine enforcement, contact tracing, travel passes, and vaccination. Similar to the experience globally, India’s response to the pandemic has largely been a tech-centric one. But this has been done without a legal framework on data protection or sufficient focus on the utility, reliability, accuracy and security of many of the interventions. India’s legal response to the pandemic has hinged on its classification as a disaster, although the ‘long tail’ of the pandemic makes it very different from other types of disasters that are often of a finite and limited duration. The use of extraordinary technological measures to deal with the crises, therefore, comes with the fear of certain types of surveillance being normalized in the long run.

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