The Ministry of Communications & Information Technology on Tuesday, 29 September released the names of the brand ambassadors for its Digital India initiative. And yes, 'ethical hacker' Ankit Fadia figures prominently on the list.
The list includes - Satwat Jagwani, All India IIT-JEE —Advanced Topper -2015 (Student); Krati Tiwari, All India IIT-JEE —Advanced Girl Topper -2015 (Student); Ankit Fadia, Author & Ethical Hacker; and Pranav Mistry, global vice-president of Research at Samsung (Computer Scientist and Author of 6th Sense).
Controversy erupted after the Ministry of Communications & Information Technology in a media statement on Monday said that it never appointed the 30-year-old 'hacker' as a brand ambassador of Digital India. Though the statement published by the Press Information Bureau (PIB) was soon taken-off, most media houses by then had established that Fadia was lying. The statement, in fact, was posted by someone who actually had no clue about the appointments.
"It was posted inadvertently by one of our officials without securing proper sanction. We will get back to you by evening with the actual position," a spokesperson for the department told IANS, when asked for a response.
As the controversy gained limelight, a report in Indian Express noted: "Digital India has a new controversy and it's called Ankit Fadia."
Meanwhile, The Hindustan Times without drawing a conclusion noted: "Is self-proclaimed ethical hacker Ankit Fadia really the brand ambassador for the government's Digital India initiative? Right now, it seems like no one knows for sure."
Fadia, who shot to fame after writing a book, "Unofficial Guide to Ethical Hacking", at the age of 15, stood his ground and said the appointment letter was issued on 1 July and signed by then IT secretary Ram Sewak Sharma, now chairman of the telecom watchdog. "Yes! I posted the certificate on Facebook yesterday. I have emails from government as proof as well," Fadia told IANS.
Meanwhile, the official statement specifically noted that only four have been selected and "thereafter, no other person has been appointed as Brand Ambassador for Digital India".