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All about NATGRID: India’s counter-terrorism platform

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to launch the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) soon. NATGRID is aimed at providing cutting-edge technology to boost India’s counter-terror capabilities. A final synchronization and testing of the electronic database is reportedly underway.

The development was recently confirmed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who said that the launch was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Had corona (COVID-19) not been there, the Prime Minister would have dedicated NATGRID to the country. I am hopeful that the Prime Minister will dedicate NATGRID to the country in some time,” Shah had said during the 51st Foundation Day event of the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) on September 4.

Here’s all you need to know about the integrated counter-terrorism platform NATGRID

What is NATGRID?

NATGRID is conceptualized as a seamless and secure database for information on terrorists, economic crimes, and similar incidents to help bolster India’s capabilities.

The NATGRID has been envisaged as a robust mechanism to track suspects and prevent terrorist attacks with real-time data and access to classified information like immigration, banking, individual taxpayers, air and train travels.

The 26/11 terrorist siege in Mumbai back in 2008 exposed the deficiency that security agencies had no mechanism to look for vital information in real-time.

How will NATGRID work?

In the first phase, 10 user agencies and 21 service providers will be connected with the NATGRID. In contrast, about 950 additional organizations will be brought on board in later phases, as per a PTI report.

In the following years, more than 1,000 organizations will be further integrated into the NATGRID.

These data sources include immigration entry and exit records, banking and financial transactions, and telecommunications.

As per a recent order, the Income Tax Department will share any entity’s PAN and bank account details with 10 investigative and intelligence agencies under NATGRID.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes, which frames policy for the I-T Department, said in a July 21 order that information like a permanent account number (PAN), Tax Deduction and Collection Account Number (TAN), bank account details, a summary of IT Returns and tax deducted at source (TDS) and “any other information as mutually agreed” will be shared with the 10 agencies.

The “furnishing and receiving of information to and from” these central agencies will be done through the National Intelligence Grid.

The CBDT and the NATGRID will sign a Memorandum of Understanding to finalize the latest information-sharing mechanism, it said.

Who will have access to the NATGRID database?

NATGRID database will be available to prominent federal agencies including, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs, Central Board of Direct Taxes (for Income Tax Department) (CBDT), Cabinet Secretariat, Intelligence Bureau (IB), Directorate General of GST Intelligence, Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Financial Intelligence Unit and the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

26/11 prompted India to launch the NATGRID database

The necessity for the NATGRID came after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks exposed the deficiency that security agencies had no mechanism to look for vital information on a real-time basis.

Lack of quick information to intelligence and enforcement agencies was considered one of the major hurdles in detecting US terror suspect David Headley’s movement across the country during his multiple visits between 2006 and 2009.

Headley had provided key information and videos of terror targets to Pakistan-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba that carried out the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, including foreigners.

The Cabinet Committee on Security had approved the Rs 3,400-crore NATGRID project on April 8, 2010, but its work slowed down after 2012. Later, Modi, who came to power for the first time in 2014, issued directions for its revival.

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