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Since 1st March, 1999
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PM cracks whip on cyber crime
- Infotech officials & industry told to tighten controls after Bahree incident
Bahree and Singh

New Delhi, June 29: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today stepped in to prevent long-term damage to India’s reputation as an information technology powerhouse by calling for quick steps to tighten the law against cyber crime.

Concerned over the impact of allegations that Kkaran Bahree, an infotech employee working in Gurgaon, sold client secrets to an undercover reporter of the British tabloid, The Sun, Singh convened a meeting of government and industry officials.

“Indian professionals have built for themselves an enviable global reputation through hard work, dedication and commitment and the occasional misguided acts of some individuals should not be allowed to damage the high reputation of all professionals,” he said.

The Prime Minister asked the department of information technology and the industry, represented by Nasscom, to see if changes were necessary to the law to prevent cyber crime.

A statement from the PMO said Singh wanted to “ensure that any breach of secrecy, any illegal transfer of commercial or other privileged information and any other form of cyber crime is made a punishable offence”.

Bahree’s alleged crime of selling details of account holders in British banks has not yet been proved, but the Prime Minister told the IT department and the industry to “clear the air”.

He had called the meeting to review steps taken by the government and the industry to deal with the challenge of cyber crime and to ensure data secrecy in the business of data processing.

In the backdrop of the Bahree incident and another one a few months ago in Pune where some IT professionals used customer information in their possession to take money out of accounts in the US, Singh iterated the need to maintain high standards of confidentiality in the business.

Kiran Karnik, the director-general of Nasscom, assured the Prime Minister that the data processing industry was fully committed to ensuring the highest standards of privacy. “India’s brand equity in this area is very strong.”

There is a strong lobby working in the US and the UK against outsourcing to India and breach of secrecy, as has allegedly happened in the Bahree example, hands these groups a potent weapon. A British union spearheading the campaign against outsourcing has already asked the government there and companies if they would continue to take the risk of compromising confidential information relating to British citizens.

Karnik told Singh that the Bahree incident “may well have been a sting operation directed to give Indian industry a bad name against the background of its growing competitiveness”.

An official who attended the meeting said, quoting the Prime Minister: “We should find out the truth and take necessary steps and ensure such incidents do not happen in the future. The legal measures have to be in place to give confidence to worldwide customers.”

Sources said Singh pulled up IT secretary Brijesh Kumar for the delay in incorporating data protection laws in the Information Technology Act. A committee set up by communications minister Dayanidhi Maran early this year to review the IT Act was supposed to submit its report on May 30, but it sought more time and was given June 30 as the extended deadline.

A senior member of the review committee said: “There are sub-committees that have to submit their comments and hence the delay. I think things will move fast since the Prime Minister himself has intervened.”

Karnik told the Prime Minister that Nasscom was building a database of all employees in the BPO industry to tighten quality checks.

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