Friday October 18, 2019
Home Opinion Why the work ...

Why the work culture in Indian govt offices is responsible for corporate espionage

0
//

CE1

By Harshmeet Singh

The recent series of CBI raids in the capital, where two Government officials have been arrested, suggest that there are still a number of missing links in the recent corporate espionage cases. Government offices even in the most advanced nations are prone to information theft. Examples such as WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden are testimony to the fact that even the most technologically advanced nations in the world aren’t fully equipped to prevent the leak of confidential information.

The state of most public offices in India is appalling. The ready to implode buildings that house these offices are well known for their negligible levels of hygiene and neglect. Such features make public offices a highly unsecure space with liberal access to notorious elements.

Liberal & Unchecked offices

The offices held by the Central Government are in a comparatively better state as compared to the state department offices when it comes to keeping a check on the visitors. But with the cases of information theft from critical central Ministries making headlines, these security arrangements have certainly been proven inadequate.

The place in question, where the information theft occurred, is Shastri Bhawan which is the address to a number of significant Ministries. On any regular day, the campus of Shastri Bhawan is filled with people of influence and those wanting to meet the influential. Out of these, hardly a few would be able to explain the proper reason for their presence inside the campus. Post the leakage of classified documents from the Natural Gas Ministry and the Union Petroleum Ministry at the Shastri Bhawan, the security agencies must introspect their leniency while letting the visitors enter into classified areas.

An act of corporate world?

There is still suspense over the exact information contained in the stolen documents. According to sources,  the documents contained data on the possible future policies of the Government. Claims of national security leaks haven’t been warranted yet. But the critical timing of this theft (pre-budget weeks) has turned all the heads towards a possible corporate angle to this deed. The urge to score a quick one against their competitors by tweaking their plans according to the upcoming policies is being viewed as the possible inspiration behind this theft. For profit minded corporate, this wouldn’t be a difficult decision. With the corporate world continuing its pursuit of every possible profit, it is difficult to assume that such cases won’t repeat. However, our focus must be to minimize the reach of these notorious elements into classified areas of Government offices.

If reports are to be believed, the only security measure employed at the Shastri Bhawan was CCTVs. The keys to the offices were in possession of the office peons who were easily bribed into giving them to the conspirators. If all this is true, it implies that the documents were carelessly placed at the table or kept in open cupboards. If either scenario comes out to be true, the secretariat staff needs to be held accountable for apparent carelessness.

CE

Lapse of security

Based on the initial reports, it is known that the theft didn’t include high end levels of technical sophistication. Since most of the critical data was stored on the computers, the common knowledge is that the stolen information wasn’t extremely crucial to the Government decisions. If this is true, the higher official deserve a pat on their back for making use of technology and trying to store as much information in the form of soft copies as possible.

The Government must also consider extending the same security arrangements to other ministerial offices as there are at the Prime Minister’s office, to ensure that such cases of corporate espionage do not arise again.

Government’s response

Since in such cases, even the slightest of time lags can prove to be detrimental to the probe, the Government deserves accolades for its swift actions and subsequent raids that have resulted into several arrests. Further probe will answer a number of questions, including the people behind the entire conspiracy. Proper implementation of lessons from this episode and strict laws against theft of classified information would go a long way in ensuring that such episodes aren’t repeated.

Next Story

CBI Unravels Wrongdoing in Atomic Minerals Mining Licensing

The Delhi High Court that it had taken a policy decision not to auction or re-grant the offshore blocks

0
Coal, Mining, China, 5G
5G-powered tramcars went into service in a coal mine in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Pixabay

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has uncovered large-scale irregularities in the ownership pattern, financial resources and technical ability of five companies granted mining licences for offshore blocks bearing rare and atomic minerals.

The companies, while applying for mining licence in June 2010, had a common director, the Central government has told the Supreme Court.

The Centre has argued that the five companies were registered after the government called private parties for mining licences in June 2010, says a CBI document.

At that time, the government was unaware that these minerals had strategic and defence value.

CBI, Atomic Minerals, Mining
The companies, while applying for mining licence in June 2010, had a common director. Pixabay

The administering authority of these licences did not obtain mandatory clearances from various ministries, especially the Home Ministry, according to the CBI.

The Delhi High Court, in an order dated April 25, directed the Centre to execute the exploration licence of the companies as per the procedure within four weeks from the date of receipt of the order.

The verdict came even after the Centre, in an affidavit dated April 16, told the Delhi High Court that it had taken a policy decision not to auction or re-grant the offshore blocks, bearing atomic minerals, to private parties.

Moving the Supreme Court against the High Court ruling, the Centre accused the companies of not submitting the proper supporting documents on the basis of which the marking was done in the evaluation sheet.

Also Read- Top Delhi Surgeons Under Scanner in Connection with International Kidney Racket

The companies were charged with not providing any document indicating the sanctioned line of credit from any financial institution or bank.

One of the companies approached a leading financial services company seeking finance to carry out mining.

“This document was accepted as a document in support of the financial capability of the applicant company. Accordingly, a MoU was signed on September 23, 2010, which was received by Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) in October 2010, after the date of submission of application for grant of licences on September 14, 2010,” said an internal CBI document.

Therefore, the Centre believed that the company had not confirmed the sanctioned credit limit as per the revised guidelines.

CBI, Atomic Minerals, Mining
The Centre has argued that the five companies were registered after the government called private parties for mining licences in June 2010. Pixabay

“The above MoU was valid only till March 31, 2011. Thus, on the date of issue of grant order by IBM on April 5, 2011, the MoU was null and void,” said the document.

According to information from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA), the authorised share capital of this company and its sister concerns was Rs 25 lakh each whereas the paid up share capital of each of the companies was Rs 1 lakh.

The net worth was negative for each company during fiscal 2016-17. The companies, even as of now, are not financially capable of undertaking any activities or business operations, said the document.

The companies stated that they were sister companies of 12 other companies engaged in different business sectors.

Also Read- Cyber Attack: Dark Web-Listing of Malware Designed to Target Top Companies is on Rise

“The worth of the companies and their directors are more than Rs 300 crore. If the exploration licence is granted to the applicant companies, expenses up to Rs 50 crore can be spent easily and can be further increased up to Rs 100 crore, if required,” says a petition in the Supreme Court.

“However, this is not acceptable since the company has been incorporated as Limited Liability Company and therefore the financial commitments by the sister companies had no relevance in the absence of resolution passed by the Board of Directors of the sister companies,” it added.

Despite the inadequate documents in support of their financial strength, the companies got 25 marks by the screening committee which shortlisted applications for mining licence.

“These private companies failed to produce satisfactory documentation for the requisite technical ability and financial resources to undertake exploration operation”, said an officer familiar with the investigation.

The CBI has charge-sheeted the government officials who in November 2017 signed in haste two licence deeds with one of the companies without following the due process.

The CBI, which has started preliminary enquiry after a gap of six years following a go-ahead from the apex court, favours a full-fledged investigation against everyone linked to the grant of licences. (IANS)