Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde has decided to put his weight behind the National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid) at this stage rather than the controversial NCTC given the strident opposition to the anti-terror body by NDA chief ministers.
Sources said there was a view within the government that this was not the right time to try building consensus amongst chief ministers on the powers that the anti-terror body should have.
At this point, sources said, Shinde wanted to give Natgrid a hard push to ensure that the ambitious project his predecessor P Chidambaram did not get stuck in bureaucratic tangles and miss its deadlines.
Shinde said Natgrid was a good project started by his predecessor and he was making sure it was implemented at the earliest.
The Cabinet Committee on Security had this June agreed to spend about Rs 1,000 crore on the first phase of the information grid that would give security agencies real-time access into nearly 21 categories of databases to raise surveillance levels and help intelligence sleuths connect the dots.
At the same time, it would also build accountability into the system since the grid would keep logs of how the system was used to access private information of individuals. It is a thought that does have some in the security establishment concerned.
A government source indicated there was resentment to the new system within the bureaucracy too, reflected by the absence of the Natgrid chief from last month’s conference of directors general of police convened by the Intelligence Bureau. According to one account, the Natgrid chief Raghu Raman hadn’t been invited this year.
Sources said Shinde would write to the chief ministers to muster support for Chidambaram’s brainchild – the National Counter Terrorism Centre – at a later stage.
Chidambaram believed that empowering NCTC with arrest powers in exceptional circumstances was central to the idea of an effective anti-terror body in Delhi.
He had been able to push similar powers for the National Investigation Agency past Parliament. But that was in the immediate aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks when no political party wanted to be seen to be standing in the way of securing the nation.