Friday, March 31, 2017

Who really is minding the store!

Sometimes or the other, we all must have come across stories of people who claim to be gifted with clairvoyance. People who claim to have the power of communicating with souls of dead persons, through seances, through trance or using some other tools (Ouija Board, for example). 

It seems Ministry of External Affairs of India (MEA) is also gifted with the power to communicate with dead persons through Email! Incredible and fantastic as it may sound, it is not exactly true. 

An Indian man had recently died of heart attack in Saudi Arabia. The Vice President of Migrant Rights Council had registered grievance on behalf of the family of the dead person on the Online NRI Grievance Monitoring System of MEA (Madad Portal). In response to the registered grievance, the MEA promptly responded with an email addressed to the "dead person", informing him that a complaint has been registered on his behalf and as requested his mortal remains would be repatriated to India at the earliest! It may sound unbelievable, preposterous, ridiculously hilarious, but it seems, this is true!

Details of the email had come to light because copy of the mail was also marked to the person who registered the grievance (VP of MRC). According to him, this was not the first time such a thing had happened, similar incidences had taken place several times before.

It is not clear if the glitch is because of bad design of the MEA system (Madad Portal) or someone at MEA keeps goofing it up. In all likelihood glitch could have taken place because of either or both the reasons. 

The way IT glitches are taking place in the government organizations, it makes you wonder, who actually is running the government IT Systems! 

Here is another shocking news that highlights the sad state of affairs related to IT systems of a very important government organization. It was recently reported that the portal of the country's anti-graft watchdog Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) had crashed on November 28 and "all data", I repeat, "all data" stored online till that date has been lost. What is more shocking and very hard to believe is, the data was never backed up!

So now, it seems that details of all cases of corruption in public offices are lost for ever. It is reported that National Informatics Centre (NIC) has been trying to retrieve the old data but without much success as of March 16 this year. It is also reported that, the CVC has been sending regret letters to all Right to Information (RTI) requests from citizens.

The whole thing sounds bizarre and outrageous. It is very hard to believe that one of the most important systems of the country for fighting corruption did not have a disaster recovery plan in place! The implication of this is very grave. It implies in very simple words that details of all cases related to corruption in public places is lost for ever. It is as if with a single incidence, all the people involved in graft have been granted reprieve from their crimes. As if someone said "abracadabra" and all signs of cases of corruption had vanished into thin air. 

The CVC data loss incidence raises several important questions. One such question is, was IT audit of the system ever carried out anytime internally or through an independent party? If yes, then how did they not discover absence of data backup which is one of the most basic requirement for business continuity? 

The whole thing sounds quite bizarre! What is more shocking is, there was hardly any discussion on this grave matter neither in the news media nor on social media. Hardly anyone had raised any question if this was really a system failure or human failure or result of some other more sinister stuff going on. 

It seems the shocking incidence of total data loss of CVC got buried deep under the most trending and raging news, Yogi Adityanath becoming Chief Minister of Uttar Predesh. For weeks now, this seems to be the most important topic the country has to deal with. It is very sad that people would rather indulge in muck heaping, trolling and other forms of sensational and vain activities rather than discuss matters of grave importance to the country. 

With such kind of misplaced priorities, is there much hope for the country? God help us if this is the quality of IT systems installed in the government organizations, and of people running them, and weird things that are taking place. We certainly need lot of prayers and good luck!

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