With a view to win the upcoming elections by hook or crook after its popularity hit rock bottom, the ruling Telugu Desam party has resorted to data breach involving personal information of 3.50 crore voters of the state. In the process, it has placed in public domain, their personal information such as bank account number, caste, religion, address, benefits gained from welfare schemes among other things. The exercise is clearly aimed at deleting voters, who it thinks would not vote for the TDP in the upcoming elections and to lure others, who are likely to vote for Opposition parties.
At the Centre of the scam is a Hyderabad based IT firm, known as IT Grids India Pvt Ltd, which was entrusted with the task of developing an app called Seva Mitra for the Telugu Desam party.
The app has personal information of 3.5 crore AP voters in breach of sections 66 and 72 of the Information Technology Act. The minute this criminal act came to light, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), led by Chandrababu Naidu himself attempted to turn the tables on the Telangana State government, accusing it of colluding with the YSRCP and PM Modi. The matter did not end there. AP police barged into the house of the whistle blower Lokeshwar Reddy, a resident of Kukatpally, who had lodged a complaint that his personal information had been accessed by the Seva Mitra app developed by IT Grids India Pvt Ltd.
AP police not only abused the whistle blower but tried to whisk him away when the Telangana Police were alerted. The local police officials questioned the basis on which AP police was trying to act on a Kukatpally resident's complaint against a Madhapur firm, which sent the Andhra Pradesh police scurrying for cover.
The data theft conspiracy involves IT Grids India Pvt Ltd, which developed seva mitra app for TDP and Visakhapatnam based Blue Frog mobile technologies which is reported to have passed on the required information to the Hyderabad firm. A key question to be asked here is how did these companies access personal information of voters including details of their bank accounts along with color photographs? Electoral rolls normally have the photographs of voters in black and white. Why does the TDP seva mitra app have details such as Aadhar card number, voter ID, bank account information among other things? It is the responsibility of the district collector to keep the personal information of citizens' secret? To pass on such information as has been cited here could be unconstitutional as per Supreme Court guidelines. It is in this context that social activist T Lokeshwar Reddy complained to the Madhapur police pointing out discrepancies in voters list and data breach with regard to his personal information. Acting on his complaint, the Cyberabad police registered a case under Sections 120B, 379, 420, 188 IPC, sections 66 (B) and 72 of Information Technology Act.
On Saturday night, Cyberabad police conducted searches on the offices of
IT Grids company at Kondapur and KPHB colonies. The police seized critical information on hard disks as also other documents. They also took control of the server and called in four employees of the firm
for questioning. These employees are Regonda Bhaskar, Phani Kadaluri, Chandrashekar and Vikram Gaur who are being probed by the Telangana police.
Notices were also served to director of the company Dakavaram Ashok under CRPC 161 Section. But he did not make an appearance on Sunday. It is learned that Ashok is close to AP IT minister Nara Lokesh.
Cyberabad police learnt that the data scam has several aspects to it. The matter to their notice in the last week of February through a complaint. IT Grids company got whiff of this and tried to destroy evidence and on February 27, it came up with an upgraded version of seva mitra with changes.
On Sunday social media was abuzz with the information accessed by the firm which constituted breach of privacy of citizens. Suddenly sensitive information of residents of AP including their Aadhaar card numbers, voter ID, bank account details etc got into public domain, thanks to this firm which accessed the information courtesy AP government. It was then that Lokeshwar Reddy lodged a complaint against IT Grids.
Meanwhile, it is learnt that the firm had deleted critical information from its server and had also changed the servers. Cyberabad police is trying to retrieve the deleted information.