Friday, May 22, 2009

UGC in CVC net for violation of norms

What looks like a bad welcome to the new HRD minister, Central Vigilance Commission has indicted UGC for flouting all norms and not being transparent in the ambitious Rs 224 crore e-governance project. CVC had carried out an inquiry after adverse media reports and a complaint alleging serious irregularities in the handling of the big value tender for the design and implementation of an e-governance project in UGC. The project entails greater connectivity to universities and colleges. While saying that the "process needs to be reviewed and made more professional and transparent in order to avoid complications later", CVC said, "The total value of the project may not have been correctly estimated and may be on the higher side." CVC suggested the project "can be managed better by starting on a smaller scale and expanding thereafter".


Websites Blocking In India

Censorship and e-surveillance have taken a nasty shape in India. Barely four months after dropping its proposal of forcing TV channels to show only an "authorised" feed during security emergencies, the government is now seeking to censor news portals and other websites, that too even at normal times.

Concerns regarding censorship and e-surveillance have been raised times and again by many techno-legal experts of India. Mr. Praveen Dalal, Managing Partner of Perry4Law, has suggested that the Congress led Government must openly declare that the Information Technology Amendment Act 2008 would be given a “fresh look” in the forthcoming Parliament session. With issues like cyber terrorism, cyber security, cyber forensics, hacking, wireless hacking, phishing, spam, child pornography, etc troubling India, a casual and weak law would not serve the purpose. In fact, there is an emergent need of formulating Information Technology Amendment Act, 2009 by the new Government and Parliament as soon as possible.

It is good to see that media has taken up the issue. The problem is that the same seems to be guided by the concern of “self-protection” rather than raising a voice against weak, ineffective and redundant laws dealing with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in India. It would be a good idea if the media takes firm stand against the proposed Information Technology Amendment Act, 2008 as the same is “unconstitutional”. Once brought into force, it would violate valuable “Civil Liberties” of Indian citizens and Indian media. The same would be pressed against the media as well so it is better to protest before it is too late.

Fortunately, the Information Technology Amendment Act, 2008 has “not been notified yet”. This means for all practical purposes the old Information Technology Act, 2000 still governs the position. Let us hope that the suggestions of Mr. Praveen Dalal would be accepted by the Indian Government and Indian Parliament for the larger interest of all.



Internet Threatened by Censorship, Secret Surveillance, and Cybersecurity Laws

Stephen Lendman reports a very good piece of work upon the censorship and e-surveillance issues. He says that at a time of corporate dominated media, a free and open Internet is democracy's last chance to preserve our (America’s) First Amendment rights without which all others are threatened. Activists call it Net Neutrality. Media scholar Robert McChesney says without it "the Internet would start to look like cable TV (with a) handful of massive companies (controlling) content" enough to have veto power over what's allowed and what it costs. Progressive web sites and writers would be marginalized or suppressed, and content systematically filtered or banned.

In the Indian context similar issues have been discussed about e-surveillance and censorship. There is an emergent need of an Information Technology Amendment Act, 2009 that must address these burning issues. With Congress coming to power, we can expect such action very soon.