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Caution against use of foreign software in sensitive departments

Sandeep Dikshit


‘Government should offer projects for competition among Indian companies'

Procurement decisions pertain to defence forces, Railways


NEW DELHI: In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Communist Party of India has raised the issue of sensitive government departments opting for foreign software, with their attendant security implications, over indigenous solutions.

CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta alleged that tender specifications for three mega software projects were tailored to suit foreign multi-national companies and block Indian product vendors.

The three projects pertain to defence forces, the Indian Railways and the Power Grid Corporation (PGC).

In an earlier letter to the Prime Minister, he had highlighted three similar cases in the Indian Air Force, Coal India and Department of Posts as “examples for immediate action.”

On the high security defence projects, Mr. Dasgupta pointed out that both tenders – for Naval Aviation Management System and the Indian Army's Computerised Inventory Control Project – should be cancelled. The government should instead offer these projects for competition among Indian companies, with the intellectual property rights resting within the country.

In the case of the Army project, “the tender and selection process were designed in a manner that only foreign MNC products could be offered. All the participating Indian companies were offering products by MNCs with the source code resting with the foreign company. This way we increase the risk of letting out sensitive defence and country-specific secrets. These products will also be dependent on foreign multinationals for support and upgrades.''

“Further, in the event of sanctions being imposed on the country by a foreign nation that also happens to be the software supplier, the situation will be aggravated further,” warned Mr. Dasgupta while seeking Indian alternatives for the naval project.

The human resource management project of the Indian Railways will hold critical information about over 1 million employees. “For such strategic projects there should be healthy competition in the tendering process, not just restricted to products owned by foreign MNCs. Moreover, software products developed by Indian companies should be encouraged,” he wrote to the Prime Minister.

In the case of PGC, which transmitted nearly half the power generated in the country, the CPI leader said the tender evaluation criteria for automating all its critical business processes “smack of corruption.”

He referred to four clauses including two that state that the software vendor with the maximum turnover would be given the highest score. In addition, the software tender includes some “cleverly worded” clauses for the selection of a software implementation partner. These essentially imply that even if top Indian IT companies wanted to submit their bids, they would qualify only if they offered software products owned by large foreign MNCs and not Indian software products.

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