UGC says not holding final year exams will damage students' future
The University Grants Commission (UGC) has told the Supreme Court that it is not possible to alter its July 6 guidelines mandating universities across India to conduct their final year examination by September end.
 
The UGC informed the court that the expert committee, headed by Prof R.C. Kuhad, submitted a report recommending that terminal semester examinations should be conducted by universities/institutions by the end of September.
 
This report was deliberated and approved by the UGC in a meeting held on July 6. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs had also permitted the schedule of exams by universities and institutions.
 
"It is submitted that the UGC has issued such guidelines to protect the academic future of students across the country which will be irreparably damaged if their final year/terminal examinations are not held, while also keeping in mind their health and safety," said the academic regulator in its affidavit.
 
The 50-page affidavit said that the final year/terminal semester examinations are important because the "learning process is a dynamic interaction where the only way to figure out what students know is to seek evidence of their knowledge and to evaluate it".
 
The UGC contended that guidelines issued on July 6 adequately account for the evolving situation of the Covid-19 pandemic, as they provide sufficient time till the end of September to conduct the exams and give sufficient flexibility to institutions to conduct exams through online, offline or blended route.
 
It also added that in case, students are unable to appear, then they would be given a chance of a specially-conducted exam at a later date.
 
Emphasising that the academic evaluation of terminal semester/final year students is a very important milestone in any education system, it insisted on non-interference of courts on these policy matters. It is well-settled that courts of law do not ordinarily intervene in academic decisions and policies involving standard and quality of education, the UGC said.
 
It also criticised the decision of certain state governments (Maharashtra and Delhi) to either cancel the final year exam for UG/PG students and to graduate such students and confer degrees without appearing for the exams. "Such a decision directly affects the standard of higher education in the country and will be an encroachment of legislative field of coordinating and determining the standards of education that is exclusively reserved for Parliament," said the affidavit.
 
The UGC urged the top court to dismiss the batch of pleas opposing July 6 guidelines, with the lead petition in the matter being a plea filed by 31 students from Indian universities across the country. Other pleas include one by the Shiv Sena's youth wing, the Yuva Sena, headed by Maharashtra minister Aditya Thackeray.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
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    Security Audit Found 40 Vulnerabilities in NPCI including Several 'Critical' and 'High' Risk: Report
    A 2019 government audit of India’s flagship payments processor, National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), found more than 40 security vulnerabilities including several it called 'critical' and 'high' risk, says a report from Reuters, citing internal government documents.
     
    "The March 2019 government document cited the storing of 16-digit card numbers and other personal information such as customer names, account numbers and national identity numbers in “plain text” in some databases, leaving the data unprotected if the system was breached. The audit has not previously been reported," says Reuters. 
     
    The NPCI responded with a statement to Reuters that it is regularly audited in the interests of security and senior management reviews all findings, which are then “remediated to (the) satisfaction of the auditors”. This includes the findings cited by Reuters, it said. 
     
    However, according to Dr Rakesh M Goyal, managing director (MD) of Sysman Computers P Ltd, digital payments require robust security to maintain trust in digital payment system. He says, "Today due to 'n' number of cybercrimes, that trust is missing. It is not known whether NPCI is doing anything to create robust security or not; if it does, it is not to be seen. Many types of cyber frauds are still taking place. NPCI may say that they are not responsible as per their terms and conditions (T&C) but that does not create and environment of trust."
     
    Dr Goyal describes himself as perpetual student of cyber security since 1991; his company, Sysman Computers is one of the few IT security audit organisations empanelled with CERT-In and CCA to audit cyber security of critical national infrastructure and assets. 
     
    According to him, most security audits in organisations like NPCI are done based on the lowest bidder (L1) tendering system, where the work is assigned to auditors who quote low rates just to bag the assignment. This comes at the cost of quality. "Audits are done to satisfy the minimum compliance requirement and not to identify the risk exposure. There are no quality benchmarks set up by organisations like NPCI for security audits. NPCIL says that the vulnerabilities were 'remediated to (the) satisfaction of the auditors'. In a critical operation like NPCI, the security must be revalidated by a string of two-three independent auditors with strong baseline and must not be based on other considerations," Dr Goyal added.
     
    NPCI is a Section 25 company created under the Companies Act, for operating retail payments and settlement systems in India. 
     
    Quoting from the March 2019 government document, the Reuters report has further said that a variety of card numbers were unencrypted within the NPCI database for the country’s network of almost 250,000 ATMs, while unencrypted RuPay card numbers could also be seen in the organisation’s server logs.
     
    "It (the audit) recommended that sensitive data, customer data and personal identity information be “properly encrypted or masked in the database and logs,” it added.
     
    NPCI told Reuters that it stores card data in line with standards set by the PCI Security Standards Council, and has been subject to audits authorised by the council. “No non-conformities have been observed and we are fully compliant to these standards,” the statement from NPCI states.
     
    Other high-risk issues in RuPay and other NPCI applications, cited by the government audit, included so-called 'buffer overflow' vulnerability, a memory safety issue that can allow hackers to take advantage of coding mistakes.
     
    Operating systems used by the NPCI were not 'up to date' and one of its mail servers had inadequate anti-malware functionality, it also said.
     
    The audit was conducted by a team of 10 to 12 people at NPCI’s Mumbai headquarters and offices in two other cities, a person familiar with the matter said, declining to be identified says Reuters.
     
    NPCI, on its website, however, says it has designed the enterprise risk framework drawing guidance from regulatory guidelines of Reserve Bank of India (RBI), ISO 31000:2009 standard; COSO framework and guidelines from Bank for International Settlements (BIS). "Additionally, basis regulatory requirement NPCI is aligned with principles for financial market infrastructures (PFMI) guidelines. This ensures that NPCI has effective systems and controls in place to identify; measure; monitor; manage and report risks arising in and across NPCI's operations," it says.
     
    In addition, NPCI says it has incorporated data security policy, which is in line to most of the global accepted standards around data privacy and security. It says, "The policy has been put to effect since September 2018 and majority of our applications are assessed and mitigated to adhere to data security policy of NPCI. There are appropriate remedial actions that are being worked to ensure customer data remains safe and secure at NPCI."
     
    According to Dr Goyal, NPCI needs to revisit its system and data flow; incorporate security and privacy at the design and architecture level of their systems; redefine testing and security validation; redefine APIs with participating organisation and banks; among many other things.  
     
    "Further, there is no deterrent data privacy law except sec 43A of IT Act. The Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) is still pending with the Parliament. There is no accountability at NPCI. No head rolls in NPCI. No action taken on auditor, who was satisfied to the remedial action," the cyber security expert added.
     
     
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    COMMENTS

    vivek_shah64

    2 weeks ago

    We've already seen the sorry state of affairs with Adhaar and Adhaar pay if ever there is a cyberattack at NPCI god save us !!!

    prasanna

    2 weeks ago

    Instead of bucking up their systems, NPCI wants to restrict companies who are doing UPI transactions for stopping acquiring new customers. This is nothing but stupidity.

    prasanna

    2 weeks ago

    Terrible state of affairs. Regulators and Government are asleep at the wheel.

    Ramesh Popat

    2 weeks ago

    OMG!

    Customs busts smuggling racket in Agarbattis through ASEAN FTA misuse
    In a major drive against the smuggling of Agarrbattis from Vietnam, Customs officers on Wednesday arrested Bharat H. Shah and his son, Ronik Shah at Chennai after seizing 161.94 MT of Agarbattis and 68.36 MT of Agarbatti Powder which were found concealed in containers imported by M/s. Indian Agarbatti Manufacturers, Bangalore.
     
    This is one of the biggest seizures of restricted items in recent times at the port.
     
    The importer had declared to the Customs that these containers contained Joss powder and Premix powder for making incense sticks. Joss powder is normally chargeable to 15 per cent Customs duty but the duty is 'Nil' under the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with ASEAN which includes Vietnam.
     
    The importer was thus trying to take advantage of the FTA as well as use the items covered thereunder to conceal and smuggle restricted Agarbattis. The product is placed in the restricted category since August last year and cannot be imported without a licence.
     
    Acting on credible input that some unscrupulous importers were clandestinely smuggling Agarbattis from Vietnam after the item was restricted for import, the Customs used data analytics to identify the suspect importer, M/s. Indian Agarbatti Manufacturers.
     
    Thereafter, a tight watch was kept on its six imported containers that had landed at Chennai port. The containers said to contain Joss powder and Premix powder for making incense sticks revealed huge quantities of undeclared Agarbatttis and Agarbatti powder cleverly concealed behind the declared goods.
     
    In a swift follow up action, the Customs officers searched the office and residential premises of the importer at Banglore and apprehended Bharat H. Shah and Ronik Shah, both of whom had planned the smuggling.
     
    Upon enquiry they revealed they had ordered two more containers from Vietnam, which were in the pipeline. At Chennai port these two containers were identified and searched, again revealing concealed Agarbattis in huge quantity.
     
    The seizures and arrests are part of a nation-wide drive by the Customs to stop the smuggling of Agarbattis, which are on the restricted list of import.
     
    It may be noted that on account of large scale misuse of ASIAN FTAs a review of or complete withdrawal from the FTAs are being demanded by Indian Manufacturers.
     
    Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
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    COMMENTS

    yerramr

    2 weeks ago

    This is a good work by Customs. Agarbathi manfg is a flourishing MSME and it's time we resort more to RTA instead of FTAs.

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