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IT Ministry says no budget for purchasing surveillance software but answer vanishes from Lok Sabha’s website

Previously, the Defence Ministry had stated that it had no dealings with the Pegasus-proprietor NSO Group; however, this does not extend to other government ministries and departments.   “Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has not allocated any budget to purchase any such software,” said Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar in response to a parliamentary question by Lok Sabha MP Karti Chidambaram. A screenshot of the question was shared by Chidambaram in a tweet. The Congress MP had enquired whether MeitY had allocated any budget “to purchase software to intercept, monitor or decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource, as permitted under Section 69 of the Information Technology Act”.  He had also asked if the State had floated any global tenders for the purchase of such software. Why it matters? Whenever questioned, the government has put out taciturn responses on whether it has purchased Pegasus from the Israeli firm. It has also been evasive by neither confirming nor denying its involvement in ordering surveillance on Indian citizens via Pegasus. Moreover, the government has ignored every attempt by opposition members to force a debate in Parliament concerning allegations emerging out of the Pegasus Project’s investigation. Background: The Pegasus Project is a collaboration among 17 news organisations led by Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International. Their investigation accessed a data leak that revealed more than 50,000 phone numbers as either targets or potential targets of snooping by several governments with the help of Pegasus…

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