MHA takes hard stand on outsourced software

NEW DELHI: The Rs 92-crore project to document every Indian who leaves Indian shores for work abroad has run into rough weather, with Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and security agencies refus

Published: 04th March 2012 11:32 PM  |   Last Updated: 16th May 2012 06:28 PM   |  A+A-

NEW DELHI: The Rs 92-crore project to document every Indian who leaves Indian shores for work abroad has run into rough weather, with Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and security agencies refusing to allow a privately developed application software for the project to be connected to immigration posts across the country.

The objection has been raised at the steering committee meeting of the ambitious eMigrate project, for which the contract was signed with the information technology major Tata Consultancy Services Limited in December last year.

Sources said that Bureau of Immigration (BOI) have refused to give “physical connectivity” to the e-Migrate project, pointing out that it could lead to security breaches.

“The main issue is that the software is being developed by a private company, TCS. There is no way that the security agencies will allow there to be a link with the e-Migrate project… if any hacking or breaches happen, who will be accountable?” asked a senior government official.

The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) had signed the `92-crore contract with TCS last year. It is expected to roll out in 58 weeks by early 2013.

Since January, there have been three meetings of the steering committee, which includes officials from Ministry of External Affairs, National Informatics Centre, Department of Information Technology, MHA and Intelligence Bureau.

“Right now, there is no reliable way to monitor Indians leaving for work abroad. The ministry wants to modify and bring in legislation which will make it mandatory for anybody going for employment overseas to first register with the e-Migrate system,” said a senior MOIA official, explaining the requirement for the projects.

At the immigration posts located at air, land and sea ports, the immigration officer would check if the person has registered himself online, and then only allow him to leave the country.

Currently, the protector of emigrants only monitors workers who have less than Class X education and going to 17 specified countries. Indians certainly count the most numerous among the global work force, with remittances to India in 2011 being the highest in the world at $57.8 billion.

“But the BOI has categorically said it does not want any physical interface (of e-Migrate) with its immigration control system. They are very sensitive to linking their own network to any outside system, especially a private company,” said an official in the know of the negotiations.

Not only has the BOI refused to link up, MHA officials have raised questions on several other aspects of the project.

At a meeting in early January, MHA questioned the need for a separate data centre and servers to be set up by TCS, instead suggesting that the servers used for the ministry’s immigration, Visa and Foreigner’s Registration & Tracking project data could be utilised, thereby increasing easy integration and saving the national exchequer’s money.

They had also objected to MOIA’s plans to dispense with the Protector of Emigrants sticker on ECR category passports.

When contacted, MOIA officials said that they had taken note of objections to the project. “Naturally, national security is a major concern for us. We do not want to do anything intentionally or unintentionally that will hurt national security. We are looking at the issue thread bare,” he said.

They are now trying to work out other options, including letting the airlines corroborate the e-Migrate data at the check-in counters. “We want to work with all the stakeholders to come to a solution,” said a senior MOIA official.


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