It was formed three years ago and is working on 35 terror cases at the moment. But with only one incident solved so far, India's premier anti-terror probe body National Investigation Agency (NIA) has very little to boast of, say experts.
Pointing out the dismal success rate and NIA's nearly Rs 17-crore budget this fiscal, experts say the much-hyped agency has proved to be a white elephant created to give a "symbolic impression" that something is being done on the anti-terror front after the Mumbai attack in 2008.
With Radha Vinod Raju as its first director-general, the federal probe agency was set up Jan 18, 2009 -- months after 10 Pakistani terrorists attacked Mumbai, shocking the nation and stunning intelligence agencies.
At the end of its three years, the agency is investigating 35 terror cases, including the recent Delhi high court blasts, the David Coleman Headley connection to the Mumbai attack, the Malegaon bombings of 2006 and 2008, the Samjhauta Express, Mecca Masjid and Ajmer blasts, according to NIA sources.
So far it has filed 21 chargesheets, the latest one being against Pakistani American Headley and eight others, for their alleged involvement in the Mumbai attack that killed 166 people. The case is expected to come up for hearing later this week.
But only one case pertaining to a bomb explosion at a bus depot in Kozhikode, Kerala, in 2006 has been solved. Two of the accused, including alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba militant T Naseer, have been sentenced to life imprisonment.
The failure to meet expectations of probing terror strikes has led to a lot of flak for the NIA.
Ajai Sahni, a security expert, says the NIA has been "nothing but a wasteful, unproductive institution".
"It was a bad idea executed badly. You can't curb terror with vanity projects just demonstrating symbolic impression that the government was doing something," Sahni, who runs the South Asia Terrorism Portal (www.satp.org ), told IANS.
Sahni questions the basic need to have the NIA. "Who are these people running it? They are the people stolen from police, Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Why do you need NIA at all when you have not given investigative autonomy even to the CBI?"
Pointing out a basic fault in its creation, former IB director Ajit Doval believes a reality was "ignored" when the NIA was formed.
"The NIA lacks a systematic update on terror outfits, how they manage their inter-relationships, their modules, their changing modus operandi, overground links, finances, communications, weapons," he says.
"This makes the agency work on simplistic inferences that often fall back and their probe leads nowhere. It is just event-focussed. It's not likely to take them too far," the former IB head says.
But NIA officials say it is unfair to criticise a "three-year-old baby who has just learned to walk".
"We are still growing but are in the right direction," a senior NIA official told IANS, pleading anonymity.