CVC or the Central Vigilance Commission known as the country’s anti-corruption watchdog is responsible for addressing corruption and overseeing the vigilance departments of various central government institutions. So the proper functioning of the CVC is instrumental in ensuring fair and transparent functioning of the government institutions.
Hence when an India Today report titled ‘Jolt to PM Modi’s crusade against corruption as CVC’s portal crashes, data against corrupt officials deleted’, claimed that on November 28th 2016 the hard disk of the CVC’s portal had crashed and all the data stored online including that about corrupt officials was deleted, it sent alarm bells ringing.
The report claimed that the data didn’t have a backup and that the portal has not been functioning for about four months. According to the report the portal was maintained by Tata Consultancy Services and its contract with the CVC expired in December. The report claimed that after the ‘grave tragedy'(sic) the National Informatics Centre (NIC) took over the maintenance and tried retrieve old data without much success.
To back up the fact that the portal indeed was not working, the report quoted letters received by RTI applicants who were informed that they couldn’t be provided with the status of their application due to technical problems in the complaint portal of the commission:
Government sites crashing or malfunctioning or even being hacked are unfortunately a common phenomenon. But rarely have we heard about a site crashing and losing all its data. Data is often stored on the cloud, and sensitive data is almost always backed up. Hence, in this case, when it was reported that the CVC had lost all data, it was a big shocker. But this sensational bit of information that the data of all previous cases was permanently erased thanks to no backup in place, was based on good old “unnamed sources” and that’s where the problem lies.
As the India Today report threatened to snowball into a major controversy, this report by Outlook came out which quoted a senior CVC official Nilam Sawhney who has come out to completely deny the India Today’s claim that CVC’s entire online data was lost thanks to a server crash.
As per Sawhney, the technical problem being cited in replies to RTI applicants was not because of a data wipe but was because of difficulties which arose while migrating from a physical server to a cloud-based storage. Sawhney further explained that the CVC transferred the maintenance work from the TCS to NIC and it proceeded to migrate the data to a cloud storage rendering the earlier system(maintained by TCS) redundant. This led to some technical difficulties because of which some old data could not be read and that did not mean there was any loss of data as was reported in the India today article.
According to the Outlook report, the claim about data not being backed up was also denied. The agency claimed that as per practice it keeps a backup of any data at least for one year so it has all the data for the year 2015-16.
This above case is just another classic form of facts getting sidelined to give way for sensationalism and fear-mongering. The India Today report also conveniently called the data loss a jolt to PM Modi’s crusade against corruption. Some other reports also took a dig at Digital India.
In a similar incident last year, top media houses reported a story claiming that IRCTC’s site was hacked and personal data of around 1 crore users was feared to be robbed. IRCTC though clarified on the same day with a detailed press release explaining how they had checked their systems and found no evidence of any hacking whatsoever. Further, the Ministry from its Twitter handle explained that such news was common for the past 2-3 years and was most probably based on some people selling 1 crore email ids and phone numbers, claiming that they have obtained the same from IRCTC.
On a lighter note, the CVC data wipe claim if not disproved might have spurred conspiracy theories allegedly spearheaded by You Know Who that the CVC had deliberately deleted all the data so as to save the corrupt officials and that PM Modi was somehow responsible for the whole fiasco.