If you thought the ‘Y2K’ computer bug – the millennium year bug that computers were widely feared to be beset with, misreading dates and times after January 1, 2000, has been given a safe burial, you may be quite mistaken.
The dreaded bug has come to haunt the Tamil Nadu Government’s Employment and Training Department’s massive computerization programme of all its 35 District Employment Offices and unwittingly knocked off over 3000 job-seekers until the State woke up to do a manual entry again as a damage-control exercise.
According to the Report of the Computer and Auditor General of India (CAG) pertaining to Tamil Nadu (civil) for the year ended 31st March 2008, released in Chennai on Thursday after being placed in the State Assembly on July 21, the software used for computerizing the department’s functions was not found to be ‘Y2K compliant’.
The result: As many as “3245 dates falling between the years 2000 and 2008 entered in ‘dd/mm/yy’ format, representing dates of registration, dates of seniority of applicants etc., were stored in the system as dates between 1900 and 1908,” Shankar Narayan, Principal Accountant General in charge of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, disclosed to the shock and surprise of all at a media conference in Chennai.
Highlighting the key findings of the three latest CAG reports for the State, Narayan, to peels of instant laughter from one and all, said this resulted in an incorrigible situation of some over 3000 applicants “never getting jobs as they will all be over 100 years.”
The cruel irony peaked as the use of this “deficient software” resulted in “consideration of 348 candidates as senior-most by the system during selection of candidates to be sponsored for employment,” the CAG report pointed out.
Fortunately, “manual intervention was resorted to remove such candidates before forwarding the same to the respective employers,” the CAG report added.
The Department had spent 2.5 Crores on the hardware and system software to computerize the functions of the District Employment Offices. The computerization drive started in 1988 was completed only in 2002-03, but it was found that the “FoxBase DBMS” (Data Base Management System) was “not Y2K compliant”.
The CAG, doing an “Information Technology” review of the computerization of the District Employment Offices, also found other deficiencies in the software package. The DBMS could not ensure “uniqueness of records”. It afforded scope for “data manipulation”, and had “inadequate” built-in security features as it was designed only for stand-alone personal computers, among others, it said.
Moreover, as the database of candidates was “localised at the district level only” it could not be maintained as a State-wide centralized data-base in Tamil Nadu, where about 67 lakh candidates have registered with the Employment Exchanges across the State. This resulted in other problems as well, the CAG pointed out.
For instance, state-wide list of eligible candidates based on requests from various Government departments like Education or Transport could not be generated through the system. And since the numbers registered were so huge, certain other manual interventions in the absence of a centralized DBMS, again resulted in errors in data entry like “premature lapsing of 22,733 registrations,” for instance it said.
Further, the candidature of another 3,555 candidates out of 1,90,670 re-registrations carried out during 2007 again “lapsed prematurely due to non-updating of due date for next renewal,” the CAG report said, adding, there was also a 26 per cent backlog in data entry for the years 2004-07.
Asked what the State Government’s response was to these findings, Narayan said that they have now decided to go in for“completely new software” to overhaul and update the system, even as “they (Government) accepted all the points we made.” Meanwhile, the massive manual verification and rectification will continue!