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Dengue: SMC’s drone plan hits ‘privacy’ hurdle

Statesman News Service | Siliguri |

The opposition Trinamul Congress in the Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC) has expressed concern over the civic board’s plans to use drones in its anti-dengue drive in the town. Trinamul ward councilors are wondering if the move will breach people’s privacy, and whether the SMC has the permission from the appropriate authority to fly the machines.

The Left Front-run SMC plans to fly drones on an experimental basis to check accumulation of water (breeding grounds of mosquitoes that cause dengue) on tall buildings in the town. In the monthly board meeting on Tuesday, Trinamul councillors questioned whether the unmanned aerial vehicles will ensure privacy of the town’s residents, and whether the civic body has taken necessary permission from the authority concerned.

Siliguri mayor Asok Bhattacharya, meanwhile, said they were considering all the issues. He cited an example where the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) also also flown the drones as part of its anti-dengue drive. “We are in favour of using technology. But we are concerned about people’s privacy, and privacy of important establishments when the UAVs will fly over them.

At the same time, we would like to know whether the civic body has taken permission required to fly the drones,” said the leader of the Opposition, Ranjan Sarkar. Officials of the SMC, however, said they were in the process of taking permission from the authority concerned.

On the other hand, officers at the Siliguri Metropolitan Police said they did not have guidelines to issue a clearance certificate for the drones. Permission from the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to fly such drones is mandatory, it is learnt.

Experts have also said that the drone can infringe on people’s privacy and violate civil aviation rules. The DGCA had released its initial draft guidelines to regulate the flying of drones in 2016 and again an updated draft guideline last year.

The civic body has roped in a class XI student of Siliguri, Rajib Ghosh, to fly the drones that he himself made. Ghosh, the son of a tea stall owner, has developed the drone with inputs he gathered from the Internet. According to him, the machines can fly up to 200 meters.

A trial run of the drone was conducted last Saturday. “It is encouraging that a student of Siliguri has developed a drone. The KMC used the drone for the same reason a few months ago. We will take permission from the authority concerned and look into other issues,” Mayor Bhattacharya said.