Ravi Shankar Prasad as the Minister of Communication and Technology occupies a key position in the Modi cabinet. His ministry is also critical to the image of Mr Modi himself who is pushing the Digital India Concept world over.
On the other hand, opposition is very keen that Modi should be portrayed in bad light and one strategy they seem to have hit upon is to work through the DeitY and put spokes in the digital projects that Modi would like to succeed. Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad has been caught in between and he is forced to face the bad publicity generated by the series of blunders committed by the department.
First it was the net neutrality debate, the publication of lacks of e-mail addresses by TRAI, then it was the Draft Encryption Policy and now the appointment of “Brand Ambassadors” for the Digital India promotion.
The most recent of the decisions which has caught the attention of the public is the announcement on 29th September 2015 that Mr Ankit Fadia was appointed as a Brand Ambassador of the Digital India project on 1st July 2015. Also, PIB first released a press release number 128279 at 03.46 GMT (09.16 IST) denying that any brand ambassador was appointed as reported in the section of press as shown below.
Actually, the press report had emanated because Mr Ankit Fadia himself had posted on his Facebook Time line the information about the appointment along with a certificate issued by Mr Ram Sewak Sharma who was the secretary of the department earlier and has now moved over as the TRAI chairman and is due to go into super annuation shortly.
Then surprisingly, there was a clarificatory press release issued at 1800 IST that Mr Ankit Fadia and three others had been appointed as “Brand Ambassadors”.
It is surprising how the department manages to work in this manner again and again as if there are a bunch of school kids managing the department.
Apart from the strange manner in which notifications are issued, retracted and re-issued, it is necessary for the public of the country to understand that these repeated bloomers reflect a gross inefficiency and ineptitude of the departmental officials. They show case the ignorance of the officials in arriving at decisions which are downright bad.
To this list we may add one more shortly when the President of India would be passing a bill to amend Indian Registration Act in a manner that is not legally feasible under Information Technology Act 2000.
(Ed: This refers to a bill from Karnataka and the department has already been notified by the undersigned that it is ultra-vires ITA 2008 and has to be rejected by the President. But I am not confident that DeitY would act in time to stop the bill and we can discuss this once again as another faux pas involving the President also).
The people of India are worried that these people in DeitY may be incapable of taking India to the Digital India and implement projects such as Smart Cities, IOT etc.
Let us look at the lack of normal due diligence that is evident in the appointment of Mr Ankit Fadia as the Brand Ambassador. If anybody makes a google search, he would come across a multitude of articles expressing grave doubts about this gentleman’s capability for what he claims, that is as an “Expert Ethical Hacker” and more importantly expressing doubts about his integrity, penchant for making false claims etc. I am not trying to pass a judgement on the gentleman here but would only draw the attention of the citizens of the country to some of the following articles namely
1.Ankit Fadia Revealed– Forbes India
2.Ankit Fadia is Indian Hacker-Arudh.com
3.Ankit Fadia-India’s Best Fake (Fraud) hacker– waybyhackers.blogspot.in
4.Is Ankit Fadia selling Viagra?..Midday
While there are many articles which on the other hand speak about his training programs etc., the information available from the informed Information Security Community indicate that Mr Fadia unfortunately does not seem to enjoy a good reputation.
Further, some body who claims to have hacked CHIP magazine, (Editor says this is false), helped FBI and CBI in cracking international cases (For which no proof seems to be there), the role of a “Brand Ambassador” where he has to be a “Role Model” does not suit. .
Perhaps the wisemen in DeitY may be thinking that we need to bring up the next generation of youngsters on the thought that it is great to be a hacker. I disagree on this view. The future of Digital India should not be built on youngsters who think a “hacker” is a role model.
I reiterate that I am no body to pass a professional view on Mr Fadia and his capabilities as a Hacker. But I am only looking at the perception that he carries in the professional circles and the perception that his appointment would have with the community.
I request through these columns, Mr Fadia to explain why the perception which the information security professionals seem to hold about him is wrong. We will be glad to publish the same here.
But at the same time we would like DeitY to explain if possible what sort of due diligence they exercised in appointing Mr Fadia as the Brand Ambassador for Digital India, whether the above articles were brought to the notice of Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad and he understood the import of appointing Mr Fadia for this role. Or were these articles hidden from the attention of the Minister and he was kept in the dark about this alternate view present in the market about Mr Fadia.
I am aware that this information can be sought by an RTI but we would like DeitY to disclose the information without the formality of going through an RTI process. We will be glad to publish the clarification that the department may give in this regard.
Assuming that some corrective action would be initiated by the Minister in this regard, we may put aside the issue for the time being.
However, I am deeply concerned that the repeated occurrences of what appears to be an impossibly foolish decisions taken by the DeitY indicate that there is some mole in the department who is working solely for the purpose of discrediting Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad and through him Mr Modi. He is acting like a typical “Trojan” or a “Computer Contaminant” who needs to be identified and removed. It is possible that the trojan may not be alone but actually be a group who owe their loyalty to the previous regime.
I call upon Mr Amit Shah to personally investigate the matter and take corrective action as otherwise the fears all of us have about Digital India project ending up in a fiasco may actually manifest.
On our part, as responsible members of the digital society at present, undersigned as well as a few other professionals have found it necessary to start a “Secure Digital India” initiative and keep alerting the Government on some of the key issues on which attention may be required. We hope sooner or later the Government will realize that it is better to take advise from people who care for the nation rather than those who may be within the department and trying to destabilize the operations.
P.S: My apologies to Mr Ankit Fadia as a person. I have made some of the comments here with lot of regret. I would have liked to avoid it if it was not for the belief that the administration needs to be toned up and citing his example was necesssary for this purpose. I have used his example here more to highlight the lack of due diligence of the department rather than to pass any judgement on his capability. He may have a useful role to play for the success of Digital India project but I doubt if that would be as a “Brand Ambassador”. My friendly advise to him is to recuse himself from being the Brand Ambassador for the Digital India project.