What is the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID)?

India Sep 17, 2021


Intelligence is our first line of defense against terrorism, and we must improve the collection capabilities and analysis of intelligence to protect the security of the nation and its allies."

- Saxby Chambliss

What is NATGRID?

National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) is a combined database that  collects and processes the data from over 21 independent government databases and provides this real time data to 10 central  agencies. It enhances Their capabilities, being enforced with advanced data interpretation technology and help Agencies to counter terrorism and provide accurate Intelligence. It is headed by IPS officer Ashish Gupta as CEO. It’s headquarters is in New Delhi and the Data Recovery Centre is in Bangalore.

The 21 databases include Unique IDs, vehicle registrations, banking details, stock exchange investment details, rail and air reservations, passport data, immigration details, etc.

Agencies that have access include National Investigation Agency (NIA), Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Intelligence Bureau , Central Board of Investigation (CBI), Defence Intelligence Agency, Military Intelligence , Central Bureau of Direct Taxes, Customs, Enforcement Directorate etc.

What is the need for NATGRID?

The need for NATGRID arose after the 26/11  terror attack in Mumbai by Pakistan based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba where It offers a centralised database to monitor real time data and improves coordination between intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

Lack of Instantaneous intelligence led to the failure of capturing suspect David Hadley, who visited India on various occasions from 2006-2009. He provided the terror organization with various video clips and Intelligence, from Mumbai which assisted terrorists in the attack.

The Cabinet committee on security affairs approved the NATGRID project on June 6,2010.

The Planning commission also approved it as a centrally planned scheme under The Ministry of Home Affairs in 2011.

The Budget allocated to NATGRID was Rs.3,400 crores.

Why is it in the news now?

Union Home Minister Amit Shah during the 51st Foundation Day event of the Bureau of Police Research and Development on September 4, said, "I am hopeful that the Prime Minister will dedicate NATGRID to the country in some time". It is expected to be operationalised by the end of year.

What is the downside?

As data will be taken from numerous organizations and provided to various government agencies, it brings up privacy concerns.

As NATGRID is being used for national security, it is exempted from the purview of the Right to Information Act under Section 24 part 2. Another reason for concern is “function creep” i.e the use of data by the state other than its actual purpose.

State police and intelligence agencies are not provided access to NATGRID.

As the Right to Privacy is now protected under Article 21 of The Indian Constitution, the onus is on the government to  follow the mandate of the Supreme Court and use the data judiciously following the procedural safeguard.

This article has been written by Rutam Pimplapure for The Paradigm

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