Scepticism over setting up of National Investigation Agency

Scepticism over setting up of National Investigation Agency

New Delhi: In the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks, the government machinery has cranked into action. After sacking Home Minister Shivraj Patil and the Chief Minister and deputy chief minister of Maharashtra, the government on Wednesday succeeded in pushing through two bills — the National Investigating Agency Bill, 2008 and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2008 a day after it was introduced in Parliament.

The NIA hopes to be what the Federal Bureau of Investigation is to the US, an agency with the power to investigate cases across states.

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/Content/Videos/2008-12-19/1812_NIA_MINT_TV.flvb08b6902-cd1a-11dd-8a91-000b5dabf636.flvCurrently law and order is a state government subject. India also does not have a strong anti-terror law like the Patriot Act in the US, which was passed after the 9/11 attacks.

Many view the passing of the two Indian Bills as a step in the right direction for equipping India to successfully fight terror. But experts strongly disagree.

"This is going to have absolutely zero impact on our capacities to fight terrorism. We have dozens of central dysfunctional agencies in existence," says Dr. Ajai Sahani the executive director at the Institute of Conflict management. Sahani says in order for the NIA to be built on the lines of the FBI, it would have to have a budget of $28 billion annually. The FBI has a budget of more than $7.1 billion for a population of 300 million. India’s current expenditure by the central government on policing is $3 billion for a population of 1.2 billion.

"NIA will not have the capacity to investigate, to tackle, to prevent, to gather information all on its own. It’s an investigative agency and it will succeed only if it’s supported by the existing agencies," says Dr Bibhu Routray the fellow researcher at the Institute of Conflict Management. Existing agencies like the Intelligence Bureau, Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate suffer from a huge manpower crunch. There is a 15% to 40% deficit in all IPS cadres in most states as well.

Those opposed to the setting up of NIA point to the way India successfully dealt with terrorism in Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Tripura, within the existing infrastructure. "If you see the model applied in all these three success stories it is a model of building up the strengths and capacities of local police and building tremendous local intelligence resources. That is how you fight terrorism," says Sahani.

The government has resorted to creating an NIA at this juncture as a populist measure with the general elections close at hands, Sahani adds. Experts feel the need of the hour is to better equip police forces and expand their budgets. And that better implementation of existing laws across the country will go a long way in combating terror as well.