NATGRID yet to be functional
The National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), conceived and set up in the wake up of 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai, to integrate 21 categories of data from agencies like banks, railways, airlines, income tax department, credit card companies, visa, immigration and related set-ups, and making such data available to Central agencies like RAW, NIA, CBI, Revenue Intelligence, IB, Narcotics Control Bureau, ED and related agencies to prevent and combat terrorism and criminal activities, is yet to be functional.
NATGRID is intended to leverage Information Technology to connect approved user agencies like security and law enforcement with designated data providers like the airlines, railways, SEBI, banks, telecoms and others to enhance country’s counter-terrorism capability. NATGRID is designed to automate the existing manual processes for collation of extant intelligence information by connecting over 80 data providers and develop tools for making actionable intelligence available to user agencies. In the process, NATGRID will provide information online to security agencies to save time. Besides, it will provide actionable intelligence in the form of alerts and tags.
However, security experts believe that if only India had NATGRID in 2008, Mumbai terror attacks would have been averted. It happened because of delayed scattered intelligence. NATGRID aims at bringing over 20 agencies on one platform by using cutting edge technology to place all the details of telephones, residential, travel and banking of a suspect on a common platform. However, it is a sorry state of affairs that NATGRID, conceived in 2010-11 to be put in place in four phases, is yet to be fully functional.
According to sources in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), two phases were planned to be completed by 2014 at an estimated cost of Rs.1100 crore. It is learnt officially that even phase one has not been completed till date.
It is also learnt officially that construction of a building to house NATGRID was entrusted to National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC) after the foundation stone was laid in South Delhi. It took two years to get State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SLEIAA) clearance in November 2015. According to the MHA, the construction of the NATGRID building complex at an estimated cost of Rs.150 crore has commenced in February 2016, budgetary allocation for which in the current fiscal year 2016-17 is only Rs.45 crore, indicating that the Government has gone slow on the NATGRID project, although it should have been given a priority to tackle high-tech terrorism and other high crimes. The MHA is expected to indicate a time frame for completion of all the four phases of NATGRID to make it fully functional.
It is understood that NATGRID intends to enhance the country’s counter-terrorism capability through sharing information online and providing actionable intelligence on a well integrated coordinated basis. There has been an uneven trend of allocation of funds during the first two years of the NDA Government, as learnt from the MHA. One hopes that the new implementation plan, as envisaged, would prove to be successful in terms of cost effectiveness and to maintain strategic control.
This project is of national importance and intended to ensure internal security of India by providing preventive, precautionary and protective measures, It is, therefore, incumbent on the Government to make the allocation as per requirement to help set up the necessary infrastructure to make NATGRID functional at the earliest.