UPA rushes to get tech intelligence body head

An embarrassed UPA government has appointed Dr Alhad Apte as Chairman of the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), the country's only tech intelligence body, after former telecom secretary R Chandresekhar refused to join office on Monday despite having accepted the offer.

P V Kumar had demitted officer on June 30 and Chandrasekhar was supposed to take charge as new NTRO chief, but he did not, sources guessed, owing to the fact that the organisation has been courting controversy since a PIL was filed in the Supreme Court seeking action against its top brass over procurement and recruitment irregularities.

Chandresekhar is said to have had a couple of meetings on the functioning of the NTRO, but decided not to take charge at the last moment, which left officials pondering over the reason, as nothing of this sort has happened in the past.

Apte, the second in command, is essentially a computer engineer, having come to the NTRO more than a year ago from Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, where he was heading the computer division.

Over a period of time, many senior personnel who had come from premier institutes such as Defence Research and Development Organisation, Indian Space Rresearch Organisation and armed forces had left the NTRO citing lack of professionalism and nepotism.  The latest to leave was senior union territory-cadre IPS officer Muktesh Chander, who was heading the National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre. Chander returned to his parent cadre and joined Delhi Police.

A former intelligence officer aware of NTRO functioning said that the organisation has been reduced to an “old boys' camp”.

Besides, the mandate it was set up for — to be the premier technical intelligence agency, which was also tasked to protect critical cyber assets of the government — is also diminishing, with the UPA raising more organisations as envisaged in new cyber-security policy unveiled on Tuesday by telecom minister Kapil Sibal.

Besides, the Central Monitoring System, which will be the sole body for tapping all sources of communication — be it phones, social media, fax and VOIP — will also become functional soon.  

NTRO, which was set up in 2004, falls under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Office, as it reports directly to the National Security Advisor.

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