Updated: April 6, 2015 2:25:51 am
In the wake of the incident at the Fabindia store in Goa where Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani spotted a hidden camera allegedly capturing footage of the trial room, women shoppers are understandably worried about their safety and intrusion into their privacy at trial rooms at malls and retail shops.
On Sunday, when malls were teeming with shoppers, Newsline team did a reality check both in Pune city and Pimpri-Chinchwad to find out whether these places adequately address the issue of women’s privacy.
While the mall staff stressed they had taken “rigorous steps” to avoid a Fabindia-like incident, women customers clearly seemed to be nervous lot as they wanted malls to “make it loud and clear” that there were no hidden cameras at their premises.
Just when a woman accompanied by her husband stepped out of a mall in Pimpri-Chinchwad on Sunday afternoon, Newsline asked her whether she found anything wrong or any hidden camera spying over her. She quickly said “no.” But in the same breath, she added that she was for a moment suspicious about a board right outside the trial room which said, “This area is under electronic surveillance…I think it was a warning for shoplifters.”
When contacted, the mall staff said it was just a board warning shoplifters and there were no hidden camera anywhere near it.
At another mall, a young collegian said she was intrigued by openings in the roof in one of the trial room where she tried a T-shirt. “I did not see any small hidden camera but did not understand why there were openings in the roof of the trial room,” said Prajakta.
When contacted, the mall staff said there was nothing to worry about it as they were “AC ducts”.
At yet another mall, a male customer was alarmed by a hole on the door of the changing room. “It was not a big deal since it was a trial room which I think was only for men. I hope such a hole was not there on the door in the trial room meant for women,” said the customer.
At several popular malls such as Shoppers Stop (Wakdewadi), SGS Mall, Westside Plus (Moledina Road) although CCTVs are installed throughout the floors “to curb thefts” and to “monitor the salesperson behaviour,” they did not seem to cover the area of changing rooms – either male or female.
Staff working at the malls said that incidents like the one at Goa were unlikely to happen. “These things may happen at a store where the changing rooms have open roofs from which a CCTV camera may catch visuals, however in our store they are separately built and even if one wanted, it’s difficult to snoop,” said a staffer.
A manager in charge of administration of the mall said that the salesperson — especially male — are instructed to stay away from the female changing rooms and a manger reviews the CCTV footage every week.
“Although the footage review is done to check the salesperson behaviours and security systems, if anything of this sort is happening that too can certainly be found out. Also, as you would agree, no mall or brand store will allow its staffers to snoop of women as part of its policy. We obvously don’t want to lose customers,” said the manager who refused to be identified.
When Newsline visited a mall on University road, one of the members of the managerial staff staff said, “We regularly check the changing rooms for any suspicious objects. These days anything can be a camera and no one can be trusted. One mall has many shops of brands and there are lot of people work here.” He added, “But there are cameras which keep watch on the people going in an out of the changing rooms.”
A 20-year-old college student who was visiting mall with her friends said, “We have to take care and make sure that there is nothing suspicious in the changing room of these malls. We are always cautious while going to the bathrooms in these public places.”
At Mega Mart at Phugewadi, Dharmendra Yadav, the mall incharge, said they have installed cameras both in and outside the mall. “But there is no camera either inside the trial room or even close to it. We ensure complete privacy and safety for our customers.”
At Star Bazaar in Akurdi, Amit Kamble, one of the managers, said he was not authorised to speak, but said they take all steps to ensure safety of women customers. Another staffer said there are 16 cameras but none in the vicinity or inside the trial room.
At the Central Mall in Pimpri, “stringent steps” are taken to ensure no employees indulges in any mischief. Sameer Ghumatkar, administration manager, said, “Every morning we rigorously check the trial rooms for any suspicious objects. Besides, we have sensitised our staff about doing everything possible to ensure the privacy and safety of our valued customers.”
Pune police said that there is no need to carry out combing in malls to check if cameras are capturing footage of trial rooms. “From time to time, we have given instructions to the malls to ensure complete safety and privacy of customers. At the security meeting too, we regularly stress on customers’ safety at such stores. I don’t think there is need to issue fresh instructions,” said Sanjay Kumar, joint commissioner of police. A senior police officer of the DCP rank from the Pune city police said, “We have not initiated any specific action in this regard, we do urge people take some basic precaution on their own when they use changing rooms or washrooms at the public places.”
AAP leader Maruti Bhapkar said it is difficult to understand the police stance. “If such an incident has been reported and caused alarm across the country, the Pune police should at the least hold an urgent meeting of mall managers and sensitise them about the need to ensure complete safety of women customers.” ENS
(With inputs from Sushant Kulkarni and Atikh Rashid)
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