New Delhi: The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has cleared the setting up of the much-debated National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid), which will allow investigating, enforcement and intelligence agencies to access real-time information easily.
“We have received in-principle approval from CCS for setting up Natgrid,” a senior home ministry official said on the condition of anonymity. The official said, “Concerns and other privacy-related issues raised by all the stakeholders in the past have been addressed and now a detailed project report is being prepared.”
Once the detailed project report is finalized, it will be shown to home minister P. Chidambaram before being sent back to CCS. In March, the committee had turned the proposal down over privacy concerns and objections raised by several ministries.
Natgrid, said to be the home minister’s brainchild, will gather information from various government departments and store it at one location.
Access to the data will be given to 11 agencies, which include the Intelligence Bureau, the Research and Analysis Wing, the Military Intelligence, the Directorate of Air Intelligence, the Directorate of Naval Intelligence, the Revenue Intelligence, the National Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council (NSC).
Government agencies currently depend on each other for obtaining information, leading to delays.
In the first phase, the database already available with the government will be inter-linked. All the authorized agencies will be hooked up to each other as also with government agencies such as Indian Railways, Air India, the Income-Tax department, state police and private entities such as banks, insurance companies, telecom service providers and market regulator the Securities and Exchange Board of India.
The agencies will also have access to details of phone calls, credit card transactions, visa and immigration records, property records and driving licences of all citizens in the country.
The home ministry had sent the Natgrid proposal to the ministries of external affairs, defence, finance and telecom and others for their suggestions and approval for the planned structure. The project is expected to be fully operational by May 2011.
Some ministries objected to the project, saying that it was duplication of work already being done by the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) functioning under the national security adviser, which coordinates and collates inputs available with various security and intelligence agencies. However, their objections were rejected.
The home ministry had appointed former head of Mahindra Special Services Group Raghu Raman as chief executive officer of the Natgrid project.
Lack of real-time information was considered a major hurdle in the detection of US terror suspect David Headley and his movements during multiple visits to India between 2006 and 2009.