Thursday, November 11, 2010

How Natgrid will help tackle terrorism better

Security experts have observed that the primary reason we have botched up investigations where cases of terrorism are concerned is due to the lack of inter state coordination and information sharing between the police officials. Take for instance the case of Abdul Sammad Bhatkal who was picked up in Mangalore and then taken to Mumbai on the charge that he was allegedly involved in the Pune blasts. The police of both states (Karnataka and Maharashtra) had no clue as to what each other were doing and both did not share information with each other before this arrest was made.

The Home Ministry of India has full realization of the fact that the biggest threat this country faces is of home grown terrorism. There have been many instances when persons have been picked up in one particular state and it has taken almost a month before they could get information about the man from his home state as a result of which the investigations have been delayed. Taking all this into account, India has decided to set up Natgrid (National Intelligence Grid) from May 2011. This particular unit would ensure that police officers feed information about individuals into a data base and any other officer from other states would be able to pick up this information which would in turn help him in his interrogation.

Both police officials and the Intelligence Bureau have welcomed this proposal and say that interrogators could be right on the job. The biggest problem that one faces now is that in order to get information about a person from another state, a police official has to go through numerous bureaucratic channels before the information is actually shared. While this is time consuming, some police officials in the past have noted that they are faced with huge ego clashes when it comes to asking another state police official for information. In the bargain the process is delayed and several cases have been rejected by the courts as time barred.

While Natgrid would comprise information about every individual in the country, it will be more helpful in cases of crime since there would be additional data available on the server regarding suspicious individuals. Natgrid would have information about an individual pertaining to bank accounts, finger prints, the property he or she owns etc. It however does not end here. Once this system is in place all police officials will have to pull up their socks and feed information regarding missing persons, their last known address. In addition to this they will also need to coordinate with the intelligence agencies in order to put up more information regarding a person. Take for example Indias most wanted man, Riyaz Bhatkal who has been missing from his home town since the past ten years. In the case of such a person the police will have to feed in every possible update regarding him and also his past criminal details and also the details that have emerged regarding him including investigation reports.

Police officials who will need information on a person will need to type the name of the person and all details regarding him would come out. Senior police officials say that the biggest drawback when investigations take place is the lack of coordination. We are in a lot of hurry to complete investigations since there is immense pressure from the courts. In such cases we try and wind up the case with whatever information we have on us. This is a problem that has been faced most by the Hyderabad police who claim that they have had not much support from neighbouring states when it came to investigating cases of terrorism. Natgrid will ensure that we don’t have to keep tapping the doors of another state for constant information. It is very essential that the first bit of the information comes out soon so that we can proceed with the investigation and under the current scenario it takes us almost a month to get that first bit of information, the officer also said. In addition to this there is a lot of information which is present with the police officials of the other states and the problem is that it remains with them as they don’t put it up anywhere.

R Shrikumar who was part of CBI team which investigated the Rajiv Gandhi assassination cases says the more tools the investigation agencies have the better it is for them. There is an absolute need to share as much information with like minded people. However when it comes to dealing with terrorism I would say that it is enough to share information and gather the same with local police officials. We have to collect and prepare a data base from the international community too. Terrorists come into the country from outside too and we need to have a data base on them too and hence at the central level information needs to be collected internationally and the same be fed in too. Such an exercise proposed by the Home Ministry would be successful and effective if more and more police officials realize their responsibility in sharing information fully.

According to the Intelligence Bureau such an exercise will help put an end to the ego war between the agencies. Like how the IB and Raw have ego clashes when it comes to information sharing, the same is existent in all other agencies too. Further it is also pointed out that there should be no bureaucratic hassles when it comes to feeding in information. Even sub inspectors should be allowed to feed in such data as it happens, the IB points out.

However there is a need to train all officials before such a programme is launched. Although the Home Ministry has indicated that the launch would take place by May 2011, the training of the personnel is yet to begin. Police officials have indicated that the training will commence soon and the personnel will trained not only on how to feed in data but also what data to feed. It is extremely necessary that the right data is fed into the system so that it does not lead to confusion. Although India has aped the US model where this programme is concerned, there are certain key factors that India will need to take care of. If incomplete data bases are fed in then wrong names can pop up. India would not want incidents like what happened with Sharukh Khan at the US when had gone there last year to promote his film My Name is Khan. There will be utmost care taken to ensure that there is no misuse of such data.

The Intelligence Bureau however points out that Natgrid would not act as a substitute to the already existing mechanism. There will be a lot of reliance still on manual intelligence and basic interrogation by the police agencies. Natgrid will only help get initial information on the finger tips and speed up the initial process of investigation.

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