natgrid-to-have-access-to-database-that-links-around-14000-police-stations

Context: The National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) to access the centralised online database on FIRs and stolen vehicles.

More about news:

  • It  will give NATGRID access to the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) database, a platform that links around 14,000 police stations. 
    • All State police are mandated to file First Information Reports (FIR) in the CCTNS.
  • The MoU enables the NATGRID to get information about details of a suspect as mentioned in the FIR such as his/her father’s name, telephone number and other details.

Advantages of MoU: NATGRID will act as a link between intelligence and investigation agencies.

  • Safeguarding from leaks: Currently, the security agencies directly contact an airline or a telephone company if they are on a suspect’s trail. The data is shared through international servers such as Google etc. 
    • The NATGRID will ensure that such information is shared through a secure platform, safeguarding it from leaks.
  • There is no human interface and therefore chances of the system being misused are almost impossible

Concerns: 

  • Cooperative federalism: Some say that the MoU infringes on the federal system of the Constitution, since the NCRB under the Union government is only a repository and the data pertaining to FIRs of a particular police station are a State subject. However it does not violate any legal provisions as FIRs are shared with all the police stations.
  • Privacy: The NATGRID was proposed after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks but generated controversy primarily over concerns about privacy.
  • Multiple agencies: Earlier the Civil Aviation Ministry and airline companies had raised concerns in providing information to yet another agency — NATGRID as they already provide information to the Bureau of Immigration and the Customs authorities.
    • Once NATGRID is operational, all agencies will have to route their requests through the secured platform.

The European Union and the USA, along with a host of other countries have comprehensive privacy laws, which also lay down conditions for access to databases, and the limitations of such use. A similar approach is imperative in the case of NATGRID to uphold the sovereign electorate’s right to oversee institutions that may affect it in the future

About NATGRID

  • The project aims to go live by December 31.
  • Designed by: The programme has been designed by the National Informatics Centre and is capable of analysing data and behaviour to generate trends and leads for the agencies to follow-up.
  • Database: The National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) involves data including that related to credit and debit cards, tax, telecom, immigration, airlines and railway tickets, passports, driving licenses.
    • The second phase of the database will involve big data analysis for generating alerts for agencies. 
  • Agencies: It will be available for nine central agencies including the Intelligence Bureau, Research and Analysis Wing, the Enforcement Directorate and Department of Revenue Intelligence.
  • The NATGRID will service only those agencies cleared by the Union Cabinet.
  • However, State police forces will not be able to access the database initially.
  • Budget: In the 2020-21 fiscal the projected demand for NATGRID was ₹283.29 crore but only ₹52.17 crore was allocated in the Budget.
    • Technology-intensive solutions: The major amount is on account of expenditure “towards the NATGRID software solution” and for “building infrastructural works of NATGRID office, Data Centre etc. at Delhi and Bengaluru.”
  • To address privacy concerns, the queries raised will be reviewed by a board of independent experts including professors from IITs [Indian Institutes of Technology] to ensure that the system has not been misused.
    • The information accessed by one agency through the grid will not be accessible to any other agency. 
Image Source: Times of India