The Shiv Sena on Monday demanded a probe by the Joint Parliamentary Committee into the alleged snooping of ministers, activists and journalists through the Israeli spyware Pegasus. Further, Sena MPs Sanjay Raut and Vinayak Raut said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah should give out a clarification on this issue.
This shows the country’s “government and administration are weak”, Sanjay Raut said on the first day of the Parliament’s Monsoon session. He noted, “There is an atmosphere of fear among people. The PM and Home Minister should address the issue and clarify,” he noted.
An international media consortium on Sunday had reported that more than 300 verified mobile phone numbers, including two serving ministers, over 40 journalists, three opposition leaders and one sitting judge, besides scores of business persons and activists in India, could have been targeted for hacking through the Israeli spyware sold only to government agencies.
The government, however, dismissed allegations of any kind of surveillance on its part on specific people, saying it “has no concrete basis or truth associated with it whatsoever”.
Raut said he had spoken to Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, and the issue will figure in the House during the Monsoon session.
Raut said, “There was a phone tapping issue in Maharashtra; it was raised by state Congress chief Nana Patole. Senior police officials were involved and a probe into it is underway. But in this case, a foreign company is listening to phone calls of our people, especially journalists. This is a serious matter.” Raut added, “I will not be surprised if Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s phone is also being tapped.”
In Maharashtra, the government has formed a three member committee headed by the Director General of Police to inquire into Patole’s allegations of phone tapping during the BJP-led government.
Meanwhile, state housing minister and NCP leader Jitendra Awhad said Pegasus cannot be purchased and used by anybody; it is given to the government on their official purchase order and it is manufactured in Israel. “Pegasus a malware was used to keep a watch on various people, including journalists, by hacking into their computers and mobiles. This happened in many countries, but shockingly one out of four is Indian in the list; 23% journalists are Indian,” he noted.
Awhad said that according to experts, Pegasus costs $10 million to tap/hack 50 phones. “Imagine the total cost when such a large number of phones were put under surveillance. This is taxpayers’ money. Who sanctioned it? Is there another scam lurking behind it?” he asked.