Have we entered the era of mass surveillance with little oversight? The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued an order authorising 10 Central agencies to intercept, monitor, and decrypt “any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer.”
The order, signed by home secretary Rajiv Gauba, gives a licence to snoop to the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, CBI, National Investigation Agency, Cabinet Secretariat (Research and Analysis Wing), Directorate of Signal Intelligence (in Jammu and Kashmir, Northeast and Assam only) and the Delhi police commissioner.
Not surprisingly, the move has created a furore especially among the Opposition parties who are accusing the Modi sarkar of breach of privacy of citizens and promoting a surveillance state. The government has responded by saying that such powers were already there since 2009.
However, while earlier, only the Home Ministry could scan calls and emails of people, and security agencies could only intercept data after authorisation from the ministry, the new order gives them free rein. The controversy is likely to resurface again, believe experts.
Mumbai’s Tony Willingdon Sports Club is on the brink of losing a chunk of its 18-hole golf course to make way for the regional transport office’s vehicle testing track. Thought the club administration has made its objection known to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the jitters have not died down.
Sources say that the club administration has proposed tweaking eligibility rules to offer life membership of the club to the municipal commissioner, commissioner of police (CP), the chief secretary and the director general of police (DGP), seemingly to fend off the likely loss of a portion of the golf course. The proposal has, naturally, raised eyebrows in Mumbai.
The club is otherwise known for being very “selective” in granting membership. But when the wolf is at the door, the club administration has chosen to adopt an “appeasement” policy to protect its turf. But will the proposal pass the approval of the other club members?
Last year there was a similar battle between the Bombay Gymkhana and the babus, which resulted in an amicable compromise. So there is a precedent.
Cadre allotment draws flak
The Centre’s new cadre allocation policy has created resentment among the recruits in the IAS, IPS and IFS services. The matter has now ended up in court. Feeling ignored after their pleas to the Home Ministry were repeatedly ignored, the young civil servants have knocked on the door of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) following a high court directive.
In the new cadre allocation policy, the Centre has grouped all the states into five zones. Candidates are allowed to give their preference of choice of zone and cadre allocation in descending order from among the zones. Subsequently, they have to indicate their preferred cadre from each preferred zone.
The department of personnel and training (DoPT) however has reportedly “misinterpreted” the rules specified in the policy, leading to the current complication. Many officers found themselves being allocated non-preferred states.
Fearing that the government will find it difficult to change the cadres once the list is released, two IPS officers, Himanshu Kumar Verma and V.V. Sai Praneeth filed a writ petition in the Delhi high court seeking an urgent intervention. The court has directed CAT to hear the petitioners on an urgent basis.