- The National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) to access the centralised online database on FIRs and stolen vehicles.
- The MoU will give NATGRID access to the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) database, a platform that links around 14,000 police stations.
- The MoU enables the NATGRID to get information about details of a suspect as mentioned in the FIR such as his/her father’s name, telephone number and other details.
Reasons for the establishment of NATGRID
- The 26/11 (2008) attacks on Mumbai led to the exposure of several weaknesses in India’s intelligence gathering.
- Before the Mumbai attacks, a Pakistani origin American Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative David Coleman Headley had visited India several times and had collected information of the places that were attacked on 26/11.
- Despite his multiple visits to India, the Indian agencies failed to notice him. This failure happened because the Indian security agencies did not have a system which could identify a pattern in his various trips to the country.
In Focus: NATGRID
- NATGRID was conceptualised, as a counter terrorism programme, to study and analyse the huge amounts of data from various intelligence and enforcement agencies to track suspected terrorists and prevent terrorist attacks.
- Initiated at a budget of Rs 2,800 crore, NATGRID will be accessible to at least 10 Central agencies such as the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) to access data on a secured platform.
- NATGRID will collect information on terror suspects from 21 data providing organisations such as banks, telecommunications companies, railways and airlines, immigration department, motor vehicle department, income tax department etc.
- The NATGRID is also supposed to collect and keep all data on previous intelligence alerts so that these could be assessed to verify similar links when a fresh intelligence alert is issued.
- As per the present arrangement, the security agencies directly contact an airline or a telephone company if they need data regarding someone suspect. The data is shared through international servers such as Google etc. The NATGRID will ensure that such information is shared through a secure platform, safeguarding it from leaks.
- Many concerns have been expressed regarding the dangers of leakage or misuse of the NATGRID.
- The collection of vital information from different resources is vulnerable to cyber-attacks or spying activities from foreign intelligence agencies. Thus it is important to have proper safeguards in place to prevent this data leak.
- There are also concerns around data privacy, especially considering that efforts to maintain accountability over intelligence agencies has often proved difficult.
- Thus, it is important that proper mechanism is put in place so that security agencies can access the NATGRID database only for counter terrorism related operations.
- As per the Ministry of Home Affairs, the NATGRID will start functioning by December 31, 2020.
- NATGRID is seen as vital for strengthening India’s national security and counter-terrorism efforts.
- The Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) project was conceived in 2009 after 26/11 attacks (in Mumbai), with the aim of establishing connectivity among 14,000 police stations across the country.
- All the State police have to compulsorily file the First Information Reports (FIR) in the CCTNS.
- The project involves digitisation of data related to FIRs registered, cases investigated, and charge sheets filed in all police stations, in order to develop a national database of crime and criminals.