Government nod to centralised database to tackle terror

Government nod to centralised database to tackle terror

The home ministry's ambitious intelligence database project got “in principle approval” at the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) that met here with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in chair, according to an official statement.

“On the direction of the CCS, a detailed briefing and presentation about the Natgrid project along with safeguards and oversight mechanisms was given by (the home ministry) to the members of the CCS,” the statement said.

The home ministry has been asked “to proceed accordingly”.
The Natgid will integrate 21 databases - like railways, airlines, stock exchanges, income tax, bank account details, credit card transactions, visa and immigration records, telecom service providers and chemical vendors.

These databases will be linked and pooled at one centre to enable security and intelligence agencies get any information at the press of a button. The propsal is reportedly the brainchild of Home Minister P. Chidambaram.

All this data is currently gathered separately by different ministries and agencies. So far, security and intelligence agencies have been complaining that the lack of real-time information sharing was a major hurdle in following terror suspects.

According to home ministry officials, the information grid will help the government agencies “combat terror threats” as it is expected generate "actionable" intelligence inputs.

It will have a command centre which will also be used as “anti-terror hotline”, they said.
The access to the centralised data will be given to 11 agencies including the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Intelligence Bureau, Research and Analysis Wing, Defence Intelligence Agency, Directorate of Air Intelligence, Directorate of Naval Intelligence, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and Enforcement Directorate, the official said.

A home ministry official explaining the significance of the system said if a terrorist is arrested from somewhere and police want some information about him from some other state or agency, "they have to go through a winding process of reaching out to different officials to access the information and this sometimes takes months. But now this process will be simplified."

“The grid will also enable the law enforcement agencies to coordinate their strategy in following any case.”

With a whopping budget of Rs.2,800 crore, the Natgrid is headed by Raghu Raman, an ex-serviceman who previously headed the Mahindra Special Service Group, a leading player in risk and governance consulting.

The Natgrid was first proposed by Chidambaram after the 2008 Mumbai terror attack for Lashkar-e-Taiba operative David Headley had filmed targets in Mumbai during his unsuspecting India visits prior to the strike.

The officials believe that had the Natgrid been there, Headley wouldn't have had a free run in India for his terror trips.

The Natgrid project was hanging fire since December 2010 because of objections of the defence and finance ministries. The ministries had objected, saying the home ministry with the centralised database will have uninterrupted access to all information.

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