In a written reply to the Lok Sabha, the ministry of home affairs stated that the expenditure for the ambitious intelligence gathering project National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) stood at Rs 49.5 crore for the year 2015-16 (up to January 31, 2016).

The expenditure for the NATGRID project has been steadily increasing over the years. In 2014-15, the expenditure stood 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.

This comes shortly after finance minister Arun Jaitley’s Union budget speech which said that internal security would get a 13% hike in budget. The budget 2016-17 allocated Rs 77,383 crore to the union home ministry compared to 2015-16 budget that allocated Rs.68, 444 Crore.  The budget for the NATGRID project for 2016-17 year is Rs 45 crore.

The home ministry also said that timeline for implementation of NATGRID project is 30th June 2017. “An Audit Committee headed by Deputy National Security Advisor has been constituted to audit the manner in which the data is accessed and sought to be used,” it added.

The PIB release also said that NATGRID came under the purview of ‘Intelligence and Security Organizations’ and is exempted from the RTI.

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 and transportation networks. Various ministries and departments, called provider agencies, that hold 21 categories of citizen database like bank account details, telephone records, passport data and vehicle registration details, are supposed to be linked and shared in real-time through the NATGRID with the 11 intelligence and investigative agencies, termed as user agencies.

Also read: US Mass Surveillance loses data privacy battle in EU; What India needs to do

Appointment of CEO: Earlier in February, the Indian Express reported that three names were shortlisted for the top job at NATGRID. Acting CEO Ashok Prasad, IPS officers Satish Chandra Jha (Bihar cadre) and IPS officer Sanjay Pandey (Maharashtra) have been named as candidates.

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