The two institutions announced after the November 26, 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai to revamp India’s security architecture are still far from being battle-ready.
While the National Intelligence Grid, meant to fuse intelligence from diverse agencies, is limping, the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) is as good as abandoned.
After a lot of wrangling between ministries and security agencies, the Planning Commission on July 7 — seven months after a detailed project report was made — finally approved the NATGRID, but in a truncated form.
The union cabinet has not even considered the home ministry concept note for the NCTC — which was to subsume NATGRID and other intelligence agencies.
The design of the NATGRID was to enable multiple-query searches across databases — for instance, how many people visited India and Pakistan thrice last year and changed his mobile number each time.
In its revised form, the NATGRID will not have direct access to banking transactions as the financial intelligence unit (FIU) under the finance ministry that monitors suspicious transactions resisted the move.
“As a result, NATGRID will have to seek information from the FIU manually, making the whole exercise redundant,” an expert said.
“Banking data is a key input in predictive analysis of security scenario. The NATGRID’s capabilities will be severely limited without a direct access,” an official familiar with the situation said. “FIU works on specific information about an entity carrying out illegal transaction and a teller — a 20 something clerk – in the banking counter reporting suspicious transactions. Most tellers report someone with a beard as a suspicious customer, leading to nothing,” another intelligence official said.
A senior official who participated in an internal meeting on NATGRID said the security agencies had converted it into a turf battle. “An agency that has been tapping phones at the drop of a hat objected to NATGRID, citing privacy concerns,” he said. In May, weeks before retirement as home secretary, GK Pillai wrote to cabinet secretary and the prime minister’s office that the delay in setting up the NATGRID and NCTC could have serious repercussions for internal security.
“We have not been told, for instance, if the discussion paper we prepared for the NCTC has been rejected or if it needs modification,” Pillai had said.