India: National Intelligence Grid to finally see light of day 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is soon expected to launch the National Intelligence Grid or NATGRID that aims to provide a “cutting-edge technology to enhance India’s counter-terror capabilities”, official sources said.

They said the final “synchronisation and testing” of the ambitious electronic database, which was mooted after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in 2008, is being carried out so that it can go live.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah had recently indicated that NATGRID, conceptualised as a seamless and secure database for information on terrorists, economic crimes and similar incidents, may finally see the light of day.

“Had corona [COVID-19] not been there, the Prime Minister would have dedicated NATGRID to the country. I am hopeful that the Prime Minister will dedicate NATGRID to the country in some time,” Mr. Shah said during the 51st Foundation Day event of the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) here on September 4.

The NATGRID has been envisaged as a robust mechanism to track suspects and prevent terrorist attacks with real-time data and access to classified information like immigration, banking, individual taxpayers, air and train travel.

The 26/11 terrorist siege in Mumbai back in 2008 exposed the deficiency that security agencies had no mechanism to look for vital information on a real-time basis.

According to the first phase plan, 10 user agencies and 21 service providers will be connected with the NATGRID, while in later phases, about 950 additional organisations will be brought on board. In the following years, more than 1,000 organisations will be further integrated into the NATGRID.

These data sources include records related to immigration entry and exit, banking and financial transactions and telecommunications.

Prominent federal agencies of the country have been authorised to access the NATGRID database.

They are the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, the Enforcement Directorate, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (for the Income Tax Department), the Cabinet Secretariat, the Intelligence Bureau, the Directorate General of GST Intelligence, the Narcotics Control Bureau, the Financial Intelligence Unit, and the National Investigation Agency.

Lack of quick information to intelligence and enforcement agencies was considered one of the major hurdles in detecting U.S. terror suspect David Headley’s movement across the country during his multiple visits between 2006 and 2009.

Headley had provided key information and videos of terror targets to Pakistan-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba that carried out the Mumbai attacks which killed 166 people, including foreigners.

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had given approval to the ₹3,400 crore NATGRID project back in 2010 but its work slowed down after 2012.

However, Mr. Modi, who came to power for the first time in 2014, later gave directions for its revival.


September 12, 2021, Published on The Hindu

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