Hidden cameras placed by a pervert owner that were uncovered at a private women's hostel in Chennai's Aadambakkam has sent shockwaves across the state. In the wake of massive anger, the Chennai Collector has issued a list of instructions to hostels for women and children. In connection to the latest incident, the government has largely put the onus of safety and precaution on women themselves and told them to download apps on their phones to detect hidden cameras.
In its latest circular, the Collector's office has acknowledged that female students and working women stay in unauthorised hostels unknowingly and many administrators do not follow rules laid down by the government. The circular offers 15 instructions that need to be followed.
"There are several camera detector apps to detect hidden cameras. They can download these on their phones and give complaints," reads the circular, thought it does not name any app.
The Collector has ordered for all unregistered accommodations to obtain necessary permissions from the fire department, police, the corporation, sanitation department and revenue. With these documents they are then required to get the approval of the District Collector by December 31. Owners of hostels that do not follow these rules, can be jailed for upto two years.
Only warnings, no action?
Amongst the other instructions given to hostel owners are - sufficient infrastructure based on number of tenants, segregation of accommodation for men and women, women guards for women hostels, CCTVs when there are over 50 occupants and thorough records of visitors who come to meet the occupants.
This is not the first time that Chennai Collector Shanmugasundaram has warned of a crackdown on unauthorised hostels. Reports suggest that 2000 unregistered hostels operate in the city. On October 22, the Collector issued a statement warning actions against accommodations for women and children operating without a license but the administration has been unable to stem the proliferation of these unauthorised hostels.
On Tuesday, Chennai police arrested 48-year-old Sampath Raj, owner of a women's hostel in Aadambakkam, after they found that he had kept hidden cameras in several parts of the accommodation including the bathroom. Police inspected the hostel after they received a complaint from the women tenants on December 2.
Police tell TNM that Sampath alias Sanjay, had posted details of the accommodation on the group Flats & Flatmates which is popular on Facebook. He was renting out three bedrooms at the hostel in Thillai Ganga Nagar and seven girls were staying there. They had paid an advance of Rs 20,000 and decided on a monthly rent of Rs.5,500 per person. It had been open for only the last two months.
"There were a total of six cameras set up around the house. The first one was found by a girl when she was using the bathroom. She kept trying to plug a hair dryer into the socket and realised that the plug wouldn't go in. She became suspicious and dismantled and saw that there was a hidden camera," said an investigating officer. On a thorough check of the premises, police found two cameras hidden in light bulbs, two on hangers and behind curtains in bedrooms and two in the bathrooms.