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Internal irregularity cases against civic staffers pending for years

The Municipal Corporations of Delhi have been sitting on files pending enquiry in cases of irregularities initiated against its staffers by respective vigilance departments for years, sources have revealed.

Since its inception in 2012, at least 95 cases have been filed with the Vigilance Department of the SDMC, of which only three have been worked out so far. According to sources, the north and east corporations together have over 150 cases pending since the trifurcation of the civic body.

“Of the 95 cases pending enquiry, 92 are pending with the Director and Deputy Director (enquiry),” according to a response to a query sent to the Vigilance Department by the SDMC Leader of Opposition Farhad Suri.

The reply further stated: “While 47 of these cases are pending ‘prosecution evidence’, in 20 others ‘further orders’ to investigation are awaited, and 8 do not have sufficient evidence from the ‘defence side’.”

Officials at the three corporations admitted that the pendency affected the pace of work and administrative functioning but claimed that they did not have the sanctioned strength of enquiry officers (EOs) to work on the piled-up cases.

Most of these are internal cross-enquiries initiated by officials of the same department against their superiors or colleagues. As many as 90 per cent of these cases have been initiated against different ranks of engineers, including superintendent engineers (SE), executive engineers (EE), assistant engineers (AE) and junior engineers (JE), among others.

The south corporation officials claimed that the body has only two enquiry officers against the sanctioned strength of six.

“We do not have enough Enquiry and Deputy Enquiry Officers to carry out the investigations. To tackle the situation, we have invited applications from retired Group-A and Group-B officials to be appointed to these positions. We hope to clear out the remaining cases soon,” said south corporation Commissioner Puneet K Goel.

Earlier this month, east corporation Commissioner Mohanjeet Singh had announced that the civic body will appoint retired IAS, IRS and IPS officers, since the pendency was affecting the employees’ performance and overall administration.

“Many officials have retired but inquiries against them remain pending for years. In such cases, except for their pension, all other benefits are put on hold. While for those still in service, promotions and service benefits are kept on hold for years,” said a senior north corporation official.

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A simple solution to end the encryption debate

Criminals and terrorists, like millions of others, rely on smartphone encryption to protect the information on their mobile devices. But unlike most of us, the data on their phones could endanger lives and pose a great threat to national security.

The challenge for law enforcement, and for us as a society, is how to reconcile the advantages of gaining access to the plans of dangerous individuals with the cost of opening a door to the lives of everyone else. It is the modern manifestation of the age-old conflict between privacy versus security, playing out in our pockets and palms.

One-size-fits all technological solutions, like a manufacturer-built universal backdoor tool for smartphones, likely create more dangers than they prevent. While no solution will be perfect, the best ways to square data access with security concerns require a more nuanced approach that rely on non-technological procedures.

The FBI has increasingly pressed the case that criminals and terrorists use smartphone security measures to avoid detection and investigation, arguing for a technological, cryptographic solution to stop these bad actors from “going dark.” In fact, there are recent reports that the Executive Branch is engaged in discussions to compel manufacturers to build technological tools so law enforcement can read otherwise-encrypted data on smartphones.

But the FBI is also tasked with protecting our nation against cyber threats. Encryption has a critical role in protecting our digital systems against compromises by hackers and thieves. And of course, a centralized data access tool would be a prime target for hackers and criminals. As recent events prove – from the 2016 elections to the recent ransomware attack against government computers in Atlanta – the problem will likely only become worse. Anything that weakens our cyber defenses will only make it more challenging for authorities to balance these “dual mandates” of cybersecurity and law enforcement access.

There is also the problem of internal threats: when they have access to customer data, service providers themselves can misuse or sell it without permission. Once someone’s data is out of their control, they have very limited means to protect it against exploitation. The current, growing scandal around the data harvesting practices on social networking platforms illustrates this risk. Indeed, our company Symphony Communications, a strongly encrypted messaging platform, was formed in the wake of a data misuse scandal by a service provider in the financial services sector.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

So how do we help law enforcement without making data privacy even thornier than it already is? A potential solution is through a non-technological method, sensitive to the needs of all parties involved, that can sometimes solve the tension between government access and data protection while preventing abuse by service providers.

Agreements between some of our clients and the New York State Department of Financial Services (“NYSDFS”), proved popular enough that FBI Director Wray recently pointed to them as a model of “responsible encryption” that solves the problem of “going dark” without compromising robust encryption critical to our nation’s business infrastructure.

The solution requires storage of encryption keys — the codes needed to decrypt data — with third party custodians. Those custodians would not keep these client’s encryption keys. Rather, they give the access tool to clients, and then clients can choose how to use it and to whom they wish to give access. A core component of strong digital security is that a service provider should not have access to client’s unencrypted data nor control over a client’s encryption keys.

The distinction is crucial. This solution is not technological, like backdoor access built by manufacturers or service providers, but a human solution built around customer control.  Such arrangements provide robust protection from criminals hacking the service, but they also prevent customer data harvesting by service providers.

Where clients choose their own custodians, they may subject those custodians to their own, rigorous security requirements. The clients can even split their encryption keys into multiple pieces distributed over different third parties, so that no one custodian can access a client’s data without the cooperation of the others.

This solution protects against hacking and espionage while safeguarding against the misuse of customer content by the service provider. But it is not a model that supports service provider or manufacturer built back doors; our approach keeps the encryption key control in clients’ hands, not ours or the government’s.

A custodial mechanism that utilizes customer-selected third parties is not the answer to every part of the cybersecurity and privacy dilemma. Indeed, it is hard to imagine that this dilemma will submit to a single solution, especially a purely technological one. Our experience shows that reasonable, effective solutions can exist. Technological features are core to such solutions, but just as critical are non-technological considerations. Advancing purely technical answers – no matter how inventive – without working through the checks, balances and risks of implementation would be a mistake.

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A senior officer, privy to the probe, said they were studying the report to ascertain the future course of action.

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More than two child rape cases daily in Delhi, experts call for policy for rehabilitation

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