By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Left Democratic Front (LDF) Government is sharply divided on the agreement it has signed with controversial US-based company Sprinklr for uploading data on the people under surveillance for covid-19.
The seriousness of the issue can be gauged from the fact that the CPI(M)’s main ally, CPI, has expressed its unhappiness over the deal, which, the opposition parties allege, compromises the confidentiality of the sensitive data in the hands of a private organization.
CPI State general secretary, Kanam Rajendran himself has conveyed the party’s displeasure in a meeting with CPI(M) State secretary, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan at the AKG Bhavan in the State capital.
The CPI feels that there was no need to hurriedly sign the agreement with Sprinklr without discussing the issue in the Cabinet.
Earlier, the Chief Minister’s principal secretary and IT secretary A Shivashankaran met Kanam at the CPI headquarters, MN Smarakam to explain the deal. But the meeting, held at the instance of the CM, has not satisfied Kanam who remained unmollified. Hence, the meeting with Kodiyeri.
The sensitive issue will be discussed at an LDF Coordination Committee meeting, likely to be held soon. The CPI will, in all probability, seek such a meeting to discuss the deal.
Earlier, CPI general secretary D Raja also issued a statement voicing the party’s concern over the deal. The CPI chief has said that the matter is serious and needs to be issued in an LDF meeting. There is no question of the CPI compromising on its stand on data privacy and its protection, Raja opined. The CPI general secretary also said that the Government needs to explain the deal in simpler terms so that the people can understand it.
The CPI’s displeasure is also reflected in an editorial in the party’s official organ, Janayugom. The editorial stresses the utmost importance of protecting personal data. The deal is at odds with the stand of the left parties on data protection, it said.
Significantly, even the CPI(M) State Secretariat has said, even as it extended full support to the Chief Minister on the Sprinklr deal, that the deal will be reviewed at a later stage! This is being construed as an admission that the deal needs to be reviewed.
In fact, the Government has set up a two-member committee to probe the issue. Madhavan Nambiar, former civil aviation secretary and former IT secretary, will head the committee. Former additional chief secretary (Health and family welfare) Rajiv Sadanandan is the member. The committee will examine whether the agreement with Sprinklr ensures adequate protection of the personal data of covid patients and prevents its misuse and leakage. It has been asked to submit the report within a month.
The Opposition parties have demanded a CBI probe into the deal with Sprinklr. Incidentally, the company is under investigation in US for fraud! What was the need for the Government to have a deal with such a company? That is the question posed by the opposition parties. .
The Government has defended the deal on the ground that the deal has clauses which protect the privacy of the individuals whose health data has been uploaded by the company. The Government also claims that the information with the company is not sensitive.
The Kerala High Court has, however, questioned the Government’s stand. The court said it could not accept the Government’s ‘dangerous’ stand on the issue. The court’s remarks came while hearing a petition filed before it against the deal.
The court has also taken exception to the jurisdictional clause in the deal. In case of a breach, the petitioners will have to go to New York to fight the legal battle as per a clause in the agreement. (IPA Service)