The Natgrid solution

Issues like access and privacy can be sorted out

samirsachdeva

Samir Sachdeva | June 9, 2011



Could India have saved the embarrassment before the international community because of the so-called oversight in the list of 50 most wanted fugitives residing in Pakistan?

The list of most wanted terrorists was handed to Pakistan government in May this year. However, it later emerged that two alleged fugitives out of the list were in India. One of the listed terrorists, Wazhul Kumar Khan, was found to be staying in Pune after getting bail from the court and another listed terrorist, Abdul Rashid Khan, was in Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail. This goof-up by the CBI, police, intelligence agencies and home ministry could have been avoided if the government had maintained a centralised database with instantaneous updates from various agencies and in this case from district court and jail authorities.

India is already preparing a national identity database (UID) which, after getting linked to various other databases like those of the police, courts, jails, intelligence agencies, immigration check points etc, would have easily traced a criminal.

The national intelligence grid (Natgrid) is one such step in that direction. It  will facilitate information sharing among various intelligence and law enforcement agencies to combat terror threat. Initially, the information will be shared among 11 agencies, including the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and various other central intelligence agencies. The Natgrid will capture information from over 21 databases like railway and air travel, income tax, bank account details, credit card transactions, visa and immigration records.

The key stakeholders have raised issues of privacy as the agencies will be able to get all information about an individual with the click of a button and there are apprehensions that this information can be misused as well. The leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitely has also expressed his  fears that actionable intelligence (as against generic intelligence) if accessible to agencies like state police will be counterproductive.

Whatever may be the criticism from stakeholders the government has to take steps towards a robust and secure Natgrid. Issues like privacy and access can be addressed by strict authentication norms and even by introducing a privacy law. But it is very important that the information with various agencies is integrated to check terror, crime, corruption, black money and financial frauds.

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