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Aadhaar linkage with social media is troublesome

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As a debate rages on over the floating idea of linking Facebook accounts to Aadhaar, it is time we ponder if this is the only option or there are other better solutions that could not just secure the digital and social media lives of citizens but also ensure their privacy and safety.

The main intention of this much discussed about linkage is just one — to stop fake news which gets viral and heavily propagated via social media in almost no time. In my humble opinion, linking Indian people’s Aadhaar with social media is not a panacea for the fake news plague. Fake news can be curbed on social media by taking other suitable measures.

Cyberspace is like an ocean — endless and limitless — and we just cannot restrict it by or within any geography. There is no Indian internet as such — we obviously don’t want to be like China or North Korea who have taken some measures to that effect! Do we? And for a second even if we assume that we link all our social media profiles with Aadhaar, can we still protect our citizens from being served fake news by accounts from outside our shores.

Another issue is cyber security and data privacy of Indian citizens. We have already seen many cases of late when customer data from big and small companies have been hacked into and compromised including Facebook, Google, banking, financial and health data etc. Even in this case, Facebook is openly saying that it is worried about the safety and privacy of its users’ data and would not want to go for the linkage but the Indian government wants to. My reason against the linkage is that since Aadhaar has almost all information related to our bank accounts we must avoid treading that path.

In an earlier instance, there was a decision to link the Aadhaar with mobile connections but later the decision was revoked due to fears of misuse of Aadhaar data. Still, even in that linkage, the solace was that most of the mobile network companies are Indian and they have servers located in India itself. Facebook and Whatsapp, etc. have their offices in other countries and the government has almost no control over them. As per Indian government intent all Indian data must be kept within the country only but in this case, we would be going against that spirit of data localization and sending our data to international countries. This could also have severe ramifications on national security if there is any big breach.

Also, we must understand a social media account is a private account of a person — it necessarily does not have to be linked to a government database just for the sake of privacy — linking with Aadhaar will be jeopardizing the independence and democratic rights of the person for one never knows know that data may be misused by the companies or the government of the day.

We all know how our privacy has already been compromised by Alexa, Google, Apple and products of other companies that can listen to even our drawing room and bedroom coversation and it has already been proved in several instances which have also been widely reported. Rather, as a country, we must focus on investing on research to develop the technology to save our virtual space and not open our data for any misuse.

Most of the folks and younger generation use social media from their phones. There are already norms that every phone number needs to be verified — the need of the hour is to get them implemented more stringently on the ground. Phone verification in my opinion is a better idea. This will solve the issue at the source itself and privacy will also not be violated in any manner. So anyone who then peddles or spreads fake news can be held accountable by enforcement agencies in no time. This will take care of the concerns of the people as well as the government.

We can also look at the KYC option of linking social media accounts via the traditional physical verification option or through the references options just we do while opening a bank account. Another most pertinent aspect is the awareness and training for the people at large. Several platforms including newspapers and TV channel are already doing fake news checks or fact checks every day leading to better informed citizens. They publish the viral fake news and along with the fake news they publish the facts. But, more is needed. There is also a big need to create awareness among the users to stop propagating fake news and verify the news because in the long run an educated consumer of news is the best antidote to fake news.

But these may take time. So, as of now, phone number and email verifications instead of Aadhaar linkage are the best immediately available options which will take care of the fake news disease without any side effects that an Aadhar linkage cure may bring along.

(Sanjay Kaushik is MD of Netrika Consulting and is an expert in cyber security and cyber forensics)

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Singh Bros were alter egos acting with impunity

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Shivinder Mohan Singh, Malvinder Mohan Singh,

New Delhi, Oct 20 : How were the Singh Bros — Malvinder Mohan Singh (MMS) and Shivinder Mohan Singh (SMS) — the centrifugal forces behind the Rs 3,000 crore Religare Group fraud?

Working in conjunction with CEO Sunil Godhwani (SG), the troika stripped Religare Finvest (RFL) and other group companies bare through a craftily structured construct which allowed them to fly under the radar and even operate with impunity to avoid detailed regulatory supervision of the RBI.

It is pertinent to mention that at the time the loan was extended, SMS, MMS and SG were fully controlling RFL and were acting as its alter egos. Therefore, it is impossible that the aforesaid transaction was carried out without their knowledge and support. In addition to cheating, SMS, MMS and SG are also liable for the offence of criminal breach of trust since RFL and its shareholders had reposed their trust in the said erstwhile promoters and senior management of the parent entity REL and of RFL.

Since the Board of Directors of RFL was accustomed to the act as per their advice and instructions, they thus exercised deep and pervasive control over it.

In this context, it is pertinent to mention that RFL separately also extended loans cumulatively amounting to Rs 120 crore to Vitobha, Best and Devera and even those loans have not yet been repaid, which is indicative of yet another set of fraudulent transactions intended to siphon off monies and cause wrongful loss to RFL, and its shareholders.

Tara Alloys Ltd admits that a loan amount of Rs 85 crore was disbursed on May 24, 2017 by RFL to it taken as a Short Term Loan (for short “the STL”) which carries an interest @14 per cent p.a. Tara alleged that the amount was transferred back to RFL on May 24, 2017 through intermediary companies, allegedly at the behest of RFL to enable to repayment of loans obtained from it by other third parties, within hours of the receipt on the same day. It appears that upon obtaining the loan money from RFL, Tara transferred the same to some other entities and never intended to repay this loan to RFL.

Gurudev Financial Services Pvt. Ltd. admits that the loan amount of Rs 100 crore was disbursed on May 24, 2017 taken as STL, which carries an interest @14 per cent p.a. Gurudev submitted that 5th loan amount of Rs 100 crore obtained from RFL was further transferred to intermediary companies, alleged at the behest of RFL to enable a repayment of loans obtained from it by other third parties, within hours of the receipt on the same day.

It appears from the documents annexed that Gurudev transferred the funds received from RFL to some other entities and never intended to repay the loan to RFKL.

Annies Apparel Pvt Ltd also admits that the loan amount of Rs 100 crore was disbursed on February 1, 2017 by RFL to it as a STL, which carries an interest @14 per cent p.a. The said loan was to be repayable by Annies to RFL on March 31, 2017. Annnies submits that the loan amount was further transferred to intermediary companies, allegedly at RFL’s behest to enable a repayment of loans obtained from it by other third parties, within hours of the receipt on the same day. It appears from documents annexed that the amout has been transferred further by Annnies to other entities and never intended to repay the loan to RFL.

Shri Dham Distributors Pvt Ltd. (earlier known as Abhiruchi Distributors Pvt Ltd) admits that the loan amount of Rs 92.40 crore was disbursed on February 1, 2017 by RFL to it as STL which carries an interest @14 per cent p.a. and the loan amount further transferred to intermediary companies, allegedly at the behest of RFL, to enable a repayment of loans obtained from it by other third parties, within hours of the receipt on the same day. It appears from documents annexed to the reply that the amount has been transferred further by Shri Dham to other entities and it never intended to repay this loan back to RFL.

One needs to add that the all these aforesaid entities are clearly connected and were acting as one economic unit while internal inquiries point to the fact that they are controlled by the brothers’ stockbroker N.K. Ghoshal and the registered office address of the aforesaid entities is also the same – 2764/17, 2nd floor, Hamilton Road, Mori Gate, North Delhi, Delhi 110006.

The plea adopted by the entities is also identical i.e. funds disbursed by RFL were transferred to intermediary companies to enable a repayment of loans obtained from RFL by other third parties. It is evident from the above that while these entities admit receipt of money and admit that since inception of the transaction(s), they never intended to repay the money back to the complainant company. Instead as intended, they transferred the money to certain intermediary companies. The loan(s) advanced to the aforesaid entities were never repaid, and it appears from their replies that they colluded with other entities and amongst themselves (since they are acting as a single economic unit, controlled by one person) to conspire and abet in the siphoning away of money from RFL, thereby causing a wrongful loss to RFL and its shareholders.

In the present case it appears from their admission that RFL was cheated by the directors/persons controlling these entities, which in addition to its directors as the relevant time is believed to be Ghoshal) and the directors and persons controlling the so-called intermediary companies to which the money was transferred, and allegedly in collusion and conspiracy with the erstwhile promoters and senior management of REL/RFL. While the replies do not clearly mention the name of the intermediary companies, the documents annexed to the reply show transactions with many entities who have taken other loans from RFL under the Corporate Loan Book portfolio.

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India-Turkey relations under Erdogan: Back to square one?

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Turkey Pres Erdogan and PM Modi

New Delhi, Oct 20 : Turkey and India, though not the best of friends, have been trying for the past three decades to overcome their differences, and strike a balance in ties, with a little give and take from both sides. But the relation appears to have nosedived of late under the Presidentship of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has taken on the mantle of becoming a “global Islamic leader”.

Bilateral relations have soured to an extent that India has decided to call off an upcoming visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Ankara later this month, which would have been his first stand-alone official visit to the nation since taking over in 2014.

Erdogan has been openly cosying up with Pakistan, especially its Prime Minister Imran Khan. His sharp statement on Kashmir at the UN General Assembly last month, where he raked up the UN resolutions, and accused the world of ignoring the plight of “eight million people stuck” in Kashmir, have not gone down well with India.

Turkey has also markedly increased its defence cooperation with Pakistan. Ankara is building four MILGEM medium-sized warships for the Pakistan Navy, in a deal estimated to be worth over $1 billion. According to the deal, two ships would be built in Turkey and the other two in Pakistan under technology transfer. The two countries last year also inked a $1.5 billion deal for the supply of 30 Turkish attack helicopters – in the largest defence deal between the two sides.

Other reasons for the drifting apart of India and Turkey are New Delhi declining to accede to Ankara’s request for backing of its nuclear ambitions, and also Erdogan’s ire at India for allegedly not cracking down on the institutes of his close rival – Fethullah Gulen.

Turkey blames the Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organisation (FETO) for a failed coup to topple Erdogan in 2016. Ankara has alleged that FETO has “infiltrated” India, and Erdogan feels India is not doing enough to curb its activities.

Explaining the Turkey-India relations, Professor A.K. Pasha, Associate Dean, School of International Studies at the JNU, says that Erdogan’s statement on Kashmir at the UNGA came as a “surprise”.

“Over the last 30 years, during almost all presidential visits and other visits from both the countries, we had agreed that Kashmir will be bilaterally resolved through the Simla agreement. But now he has raised the international issue of UN resolutions, which has come as a real surprise,” Pasha told IANS.

“In the last three-four years, we thought they have de-hyphenated their ties between India and Pakistan. But now it appears that they are slowly reviving the military relationship with Pakistan too, which is a matter of concern.”

According to the expert, in the 1965 and 1971 India-Pakistan wars, Turkey “supplied substantial military equipment of American origin” to Pakistan. “The Pakistani weapons were largely of American origin, and they needed spare parts, ammunition and other equipment, for which America had given the green signal to pass on to Pakistan,” he said, adding that “the Saudis then had also financed a major part of it”.

However, India has been able to strike a good relationship with Riyadh, especially under Modi.

“The Saudis we have been able to disentangle from other relationships,” he said.

According to Pasha, India had kept the Turks on “short leash” by supporting the Greek Cypriots at the UN. “So it was a quid pro quo, give and take — that we will not raise the invasion and occupation by Turkey of northern Cyprus, and Turkey would not raise the Kashmir issue at the international forums.”

Even when Turkey became a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) contact group on Kashmir along with Saudi Arabia, and other countries, Ankara explained to India that “since there is no voting taking place and resolutions are passed by consensus, so we have explained our position – that bilaterally Kashmir should be resolved between the two countries”.

But the OIC resolution passed by the Kashmir contact group on the sidelines of the UNGA last month was very harsh.

“The contact group not only passed resolutions which were very critical of India during the UN General Assembly, but also they went many steps ahead by voicing concerns about human rights and the need to resolve Kashmir through UN resolutions,” he added.

“So now we are back to square one, despite 30 years of diplomacy, and all the high-level visits there, and several rounds of talks have been held – at the NSA level, the foreign ministers level etc. Both sides had wide consensus on a wide variety of issues, on Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Greece and Cyprus.

“But now suddenly Erdogan has become a sort of global Islamic leader, which has come as a real surprise,” Pasha said, adding that the strain in ties would be diplomatically resolved.

In October last year, Erdogan had declared that “Turkey is the only country that can lead the Muslim world”.

Turkey has a fairly advanced defence industry, which manufactures small arms and ammunition. India was planning to buy two naval ships from Turkey, but the deal has been cancelled over Erdogan’s raking up Kashmir at the UN and other fora.

In terms of bilateral trade too, it lies in India’s favour. “There is nothing much we can import from Turkey. For the last 30 years, we have been buying pulses, cotton, machinery, and other things; but there is very little else we can buy from them. So the balance of trade is in our favour. Turkey has been maintaining that both sides should bring the balance to more acceptable levels.”

“The Turks were a little upset. They felt that the advantages were only accruing to India, and that they were at the receiving end,” which led to building up of animosity.

According to him, Turkey was also keen that both countries should cooperate in the construction industry in the West Asia and North Africa region. “But that did not work out.”

Turkey had two requests of India. It wanted India’s help in the nuclear field. “Turkey has nuclear ambitions, and India has huge thorium reserves in Kerala, and we have a fast breeder reactor which we have developed using thorium. Turkey wanted our technical skills, but the India government declined.”

“And the last straw that broke the camel’s back” was India’s refusal to close down the Gulen-controlled schools and other institutes in India, said Pasha.

The Gulen-controlled schools and institutes are spread across many parts of India, from Delhi, to Bengaluru, to Mumbai. “Some are disguised as schools, some as research centres,” he said.

“The Erdogan government was really upset that we have done nothing. He feels that America is using Gulen, and will bring him back to Turkey and organise a coup against him.”

“These are some of the issues that have led to cancellation of the visit of Modi,” says Pasha.

Gulen, a leading figure in the politics and religious affairs of Turkey, is exiled in Pennsylvania. Erdogen alleges that Gulen played a pivotal role in the attempted coup against his regime in 2016. His government has demanded Gulen’s extradition, but the US State Department has asked for “credible evidence of his terrorist” activity.

Gulen, who lives in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, since he was forced to flee Turkey in 1998 to escape trial for treason against the state, is known to be linked to the CIA.

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Singh bros deliberately imperiled Religare Finvest to siphon off money

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Ranbaxy Shivinder Singh

New Delhi, Oct 19 : Singh Brothers — Malvinder Mohan Singh (MMS) and Shivinder Mohan Singh (SMS) — were the lynchpins in the Rs 3,000 crore Religare Group fraud.

The FIR in possession of IANS describes the modus operandi of how the money was siphoned off.

The construct was as follows: The same company was funded with equal or higher amount on the day payment was received from it towards previous dues. In some cases, it appears that ledger entries were done on the earlier dates, but repayments were received on the same day or in a time span of 1-2 days when the same or some other companies were funded.

So, the whole thing assumed a rolling sort of plan, where money came from dues and then repaid elsewhere. It was a calibrated plan which though cut to cut worked like clockwork. Such was the level of chicanery that the two brothers, along with CEO Sunil Godhwani, practised that they deliberately imperiled Religare Finvest so that the money siphoning operation ran without interference.

Here is the architecture: For instance, on June 17, 2009, Rs 34 crore was received in total from Blue Line Finance, GYS Real Estate, Ligare Aviation, Ligare Voyage, Linear Commercial and Sharan Hospitality and on the very same day, Rs 54 crore was funded to Dion Global, Religare Technova Business Intellect and Religare Technova IT Services.

On August 17, 2009, Rs 200 crore was funded and repayment of Rs 100 crore was received from Religare Financial Consultancy. On March 30, 2010, Rs 36 crore was extended to nine companies and on the same day, repayment of Rs 32 crore was received from six other companies except Ligare Aviation from which repayment of Rs 13 crore was received and to which Rs 14 crore was extended on the same day.

On January 31, 2011, repayment of Rs 175 crore was received from Adept Creation, Leon Realtors, SVIIT Softwares and Vectra Pharmaceuticals and on the very next day, i.e. on February 1, 2011, Rs 174 crore was extended to Ligare Aviation, Oscar Investments, Religare Comtrade, RHDFC and RWL Health World.

A copy of the internal report based on inquiries by Religare Finvest, the complainant company, shows the firm’s exposure on account of the Corporate Loan Book (CLB) to the above mentioned related/friendly borrower entities is to the tune of Rs 2,397 crores.

While the aforesaid transactions had been taking place for sometime by way of round-tripping of funds, the loans were purportedly serviced. However, it appears that when the promoters realised that they would lose control over REL and its subsidiaries (including the complainant company), they caused the complainant company to extend loans, but then willfully defaulted on these loans.

Due to the various defaults on account of the CLB, RFL initiated legal proceedings under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016, against these entities in the NCLT. Before the NCLT, seven of the said borrower companies, which had been extended loans under the CLB, filed replies on solemn affirmation which shockingly is an admission of financial fraud, cheating, criminal breach of trust, money laundering, conspiracy and abetment in respect of the subject unpaid unsecured loans/CLB transactions.

While these entities have intentionally tried to give vague replies, it is clear from all their replies that they knowingly were part of a criminal conspiracy to siphon away funds to the tune of hundreds of crores from the complainant company.

It is believed by the complainant company (on the basis of internal inquiries) that five of these entities — A&A Capital Services Limited (A&A), Shri Dham Distributor Pvt Ltd (earlier known as Abhiruchi Distributors Pvt Ltd), Annies Apparel Pvt Ltd (Annies), Gurudev Financial Services Pvt Ltd (Gurudev), and Tara Alloys Limited (Tara) — are related to and controlled by N.K. Ghoshal, the stockbroker of MMS and SMS.

The following submissions have been made by the aforesaid N.K. Ghoshal controlled entities before the NCLT: A&A Capital Services Pvt Ltd. A&A was used as a medium to transfer monies and was promised a fee for facilitating the transaction. It was an agreed understanding that the transaction money will not be demanded back. It is for the same reason that loans worth several crores were advanced to entities with authorised capital of Rs 5,50,00,000 and paid up capital of Rs 5,49,95,000 without any diligence, security, documentation or security and merely on the basis of a one pager document purportedly called as Memorandum of Understanding. S

Substantial sums were transferred to three entities, i.e., Vitobha Realtors Private Limited (Votobha), Devera Developers Private Limited (Devera) and Best Health Management Pvt Limited (Best), which are entities eventually controlled by SMS and MMS and they act as the alter egos of these companies.

It is evident from the above that A&A admits receipt of money; it admits that since the inception of the transaction, the intention was not to repay the loan to RFL, and conspiracy to divert the loan to third parties which allegedly used the monies to repay their loans to RFL.

As planned in the conspiracy, the loan advanced to A&A was never repaid, and it appears from A&A’s reply that it colluded with entities like Artfice, Best, Vitobha and Devera to siphon away money from RFL, with the intention of never to repay the said unsecured loan and thereby causing a wrongful loss to RFL, which has been deceived and cheated by the directors/persons controlling A&A (which in addition to its directors at the relevant time is believed to be N.K. Ghoshal) and allegedly by and in collusion with persons controlling Artifice, Best, Vitobha and Devera (which in addition to their directors are believed to be SMS and MMS) and persons in control of the management and affairs of RFL, including the erstwhile promoters.

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