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Monday, June 7, 2010

Edition 21: Phone Tapping


The country is rocked for the last week on the issue of phone tapping. It is not the first time that the government has been accused of eavesdropping on influential leaders, who mainly consist of from opposition parties.

On Friday, union Home Minster P Chidambaram said that the government did not authorised any phone tapping of politician and said that government is committed to take action against those involved in unauthorised tapping of phones. That is hardly a balm for the offended persons. Surprisingly, those among the offended persons stand some of the colleagues of Chidambaram himself, notably union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Congress leader Digvijay Singh.

Chaidambaram was replying to a discussion on the in Rajya Sabha. He said that government will go deep into the issue. "It has become necessary to review" whether the NTRO, equipped with telephone interception technology, be shifted from National Security Adviser to a minister, who will be accountable to Parliament, Chidambaram said.

At present, NTRO is accountable to the NSA who reports directly to the Prime Minister. He has conveyed his proposal to the Prime Minister, he said winding up a discussion on the issue. The Home minister also said that government will examine the rules and regulation of phone tapping and would make chages in it.

These accusations were leveled when Outlook, a prominent weekly first reported about it on the backdrop of Indian Premier League scandal. Interestingly, Abhishek Singhvi, the Congress Spokesman, while appearing on a private news channel defended his party's move to tap the phones of various political leaders. He said that "perhaps the UPA Government had reasons to tap the phones on grounds of national security." This is in the stark contrast to what Home Minster was professing in the partliament.

Singhvi’s statement was the most absurd and ridiculous nonetheless. One fails to understand what security threat does Digvijay Singh pose, what security threat do Sharad Pawar and Nitish Kumar along with Lalu Prasad Yadav pose? Does it mean that except Dr. Manmohan Singh,Sonia Gandhi and her family members all others are a threat to National Security ? Funnily enough, even before the issue could dry down decently, the Madhuri Gupta episode has emerged, shattering all the faith people were left with in government machinery.

On the other hand, it is strange that whenever any ruling party at the State or at the Centre indulges in ‘phone tapping’, it is charged with misusing CBI, use of the intelligence agencies for selfish use. World wide, tapping of the phones, mobiles, internet messages have become common and important for not only security of the countries but also for tracking the ‘enemy’ movements. Recently the Home Ministry banned the SMS and the pre-paid mobiles in Kashmir to prevent militant activities.

The intelligence input from foreign countries and exchange of intelligence has been motivated by the spurt in terrorist activities as well as piracy etc... KGB, CIA, ISI, RAW are working overtime to track enemies at work. It was the same opposition that charged the government of ‘intelligence failure” for the 26 x 11 and the Kargil episode? There are cases of money laundering, hawala trade, circulation of fake notes as also exchange of information among the Maoists, Bodo militants, Taliban and the underground criminals. Can any government ‘give up tapping’ at the cost of nation’s security? Why should the opposition cry hoarse, if they have nothing to hide?

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