The measures are a part of twin notifications issued by the Narendra Modi government on February 18 by which the use of private e-mailnetworks like Gmail and Yahoo has now also been officially banned for all government use.
Notifying an 'E-mail Policy of Government of India' and 'Policy on use of Information Technology resources of Government of India', the Modi government has now stipulated that only the e-mail services provided by NIC shall be used for official communication.
"The e-mail services provided by other service providers shall not be used for any official communication," the notification says. These notified policies will cover all central government employees, employees of those state governments/UTs which use email services of the Centre and those states that choose to adopt this in future. The step was in the offing for long given the government's concern over foreign servers of Gmail and Yahoo and instances of US snooping.
The notified policies stipulate measures to ensure secure and proper access to and usage of government's IT resources and "prevent their misuse" by users (officials).
"Misuse of these resources can result in unwanted risk and liabilities for the government," the policy says. The measures hence stipulated are: "NIC may block content which, in the opinion of the organisation concerned, is inappropriate, or may adversely affect the productivity of the users."
Other measures spelt out in the notification are that NIC may monitor online activities on the government network, subject to SOPs as the organisation may lay down, and the power with NIC to "access, review, copy or delete" any kind of electronic communication such as files, e-mails and internet history, for "security-related reasons" under due intimation to the user.
The policy has specified that besides NIC, there would not be any other e-mail service under Government of India and says autosave of password or its sharing in the government e-mail service is not permitted.
"All organisations, except those exempted under clause 14 of this policy, should migrate their e-mail services to the centralised deployment of the NIC for security reasons and uniform policy enforcement," the notification says. An exception has been made for organisations dealing with national security who have their independent mail servers.
"They can continue to operate the same provided the e-mail servers are hosted in India. However, in interest of uniform policy enforcement and security, it is recommended that these organisations should consider migrating to the core service of NIC," the notified policy says.