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In a reply to the Lok Sabha, the Minister of State for Home Affairs stated that Rs 109 crore had been allocated towards the budget of the ambitious intelligence gathering project National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) for the year 2016-17. The Minister further said that the project framework is expected to be implemented by the 30th of September 2018.

NATGRID was set up by the government in the aftermath of Mumbai attacks at an estimated cost of Rs 4,000-5,000 crore to enable monitoring of terrorist operations through existing banking, finance, transportation and other networks. Various ministries and departments, called provider agencies etc., that hold 21 categories of citizen database like bank account details, telephone records, passport data and vehicle registration details, will share data in real-time through the NATGRID with the 11 intelligence and investigative agencies, termed as user agencies.

Interestingly, in March the ministry had said that the timeline for implementation of NATGRID project would be 30th June 2017. A land dispute between Delhi authorities caused the infrastructure of the Delhi Data Center to be delayed, said the minister. The physical infrastructure at Delhi and Bangalore are now expected to be completed by 31st July 2018 and 31st October 2017 respectively.

Note that the expenditure for the NATGRID project has also been steadily increasing over the years. In 2015-16, the expenditure stood at Rs 49.5 crore, in 2014-15 at Rs 30.63 crore, Rs 29.03 crore in 2013-14, Rs 9.68 crore in 2012-13 and Rs 18.61 crore in 2011-12. Earlier this year, finance minister Arun Jaitley’s Union budget speech had said that internal security would get a 13% hike in budget.

Hiring for NATGRID: The Government has filled 32 posts out of the 119 sanctioned posts for NATGRID. A further 5 technical experts as consultants are working for the program, with another 22 consultants under the process of being hired. In July, the Government had also appointed AK Patnaik as the CEO for the intelligence body, who would remain in charge of the post upto December 31, 2018, and just last month appointed IPS officer Ram Phal Pawar as the Joint Secretary of of NATGRID.

Part of a bigger picture: The government has been working on a Centralised Monitoring Agency (CMS), a project prepared by the Telecom Enforcement, Resource and Monitoring (TREM) and the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) and manned by the Intelligence Bureau. The government believes that it can use data from CMS along with that available via Aadhaar and pass it around the various government departments through the NATGRID to stop terrorism. However it could also be used to target people who might be against the government. That said, it needs to be seen how this project evolves and how exactly it is used by the government agencies.

Image source: Perspecsys Photos under  CC BY SA 2.0