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Aarogya Setu controversy | MakeMyTrip, 1MG links to COVID-19 app as speculation swirls on identity of creator

The National Informatics Centre (NIC) earlier said it had no information about the creators of the Aarogya Setu app.

October 30, 2020 / 03:00 PM IST

Even as the government in its recent communication stated that it had no information about the creators of the Aarogya Setu app, online travel agency MakeMyTrip on several occasions has confirmed its involvement. The company's technology team including the-then chief technology officer Vikalp Sahni was involved in the development of the government's app.

Here is a sneak peak into the whole controversy and what possibly could have led to the government taking this stance.

Earlier this week, to an RTI reply, the National Informatics Centre (NIC), which designs government websites said it had no information about the creators of the Aarogya Setu app following which NIC along with the Ministry of Electronics and IT was slammed by the Chief Information Commission. Even show cause notices were issued to multiple chief public information officers stating that the response cannot be evasive.

Interestingly, even as all of this happens, Deep Kalra, founder and chief executive officer has been pretty vocal about MakeMyTrip's involvement in the development of Aarogya Setu app in the past. Kalra did not respond to Moneycontrol's current queries however according to industry sources, top engineers of the technology team of MakeMyTrip including the then chief technology officer Saini were closely watching and helping the government in the creation of the app.

During MMT's earnings call of the fourth quarter of 2020, Kalra was quoted as saying that the company's "small team of talented developers and engineers have been able to contribute to the welfare of our society", referring to the development of Aarogya Setu app.

"It seems to be a clear example of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing," said a source involved in the development adding that this shouldn't be seen as anything more than that. "It is not that the government wants to disown the app at all, especially when it has categorically stated in the past that this is a public private partnership," the person added.

According to another source, the engineers were involved on a pro bono basis and were known to be spending at least 7-8 hours on the app on a daily basis.

Apart from MakeMyTrip, executives of e-pharmacy firm 1MG were also involved in the making of the app. A list sourced from Github talks about Ankit Garg and Manuj Porwal in the list of industry contributors. A quick search on LinkedIn confirms that while Garg is an iOS engineer with 1MG, Porwal is a technical architect at 1MG.

Following the slew of criticism, the Ministry of Electronics and IT issued a clarification on October 28 with a Github link including names of individuals from the government as well as the industry associated with the making of the app.

Even as all of this happened, the social media was filled with memes on the issue.

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Priyanka Sahay
first published: Oct 30, 2020 11:17 am