Chidambaram's Next Priority - Modernising Security Systems

By Murali Krishnan

New Delhi, Sep 29 (IANS) Impressed with what US security agencies have done to counter terror after the 9/11 attacks, Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram is keen on replicating some of its best practices, including creation of a national tracking system and a security database, to secure the country's mega-cities against terrorist attacks.

Officials who accompanied the home minister to the US earlier this month maintain he was keen to to create a hi-tech centre in New Delhi that mirrors the talent and capacity of the one in Washington in being able to deal with threats to India.

Following his meetings with the FBI-led Joint Terror Task Force, the New York Police Department (NYPD) and other agencies, Chidambaram has been focussing his energies on the rollout of the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) and the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID). The two ambitious projects, when implemented, would mark a quantum jump in police forces' ability to counter terror challenges.

"This (NATGRID) will ensure that we have a world-class integrated national security database that can be accessed by the security agencies as required and is interoperable with other relevant databases," said a senior home ministry official.

The NATGRID, which the government intends to establish by October or thereabout, will ensure that selected officers in the security and intelligence agencies -- such as the Intelligence Bureau, the National Investigating Agency and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence -- will have complete access to databases held by public institutions including nationalised banks and insurance companies, immigration and income tax department.

Similarly the CCTNS with an outlay of Rs.20 billion ($40 million) aims at creating a comprehensive and integrated system for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of policing at the police station level through adoption of e-governance.

It provides for the creation of a nationwide networked infrastructure for evolution of an IT-enabled state-of-the-art tracking system around investigation of crime and detection of criminals in real time.

"A core application software would be built as a platform to provide the basic framework to capture crime and criminal information at the police station level," said the official.

Following this a dedicated communication network will be built using the existing telecom infrastructure and reliable technologies will be used to provide connectivity, both horizontal and vertical.

Both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram have been repeatedly emphasising that police forces should operate on the frontiers of modern technology and to an extent the home minister's trip to the US this month was to see which of its policing methods could be replicated in India.

For instance Chidambaram was impressed with New York's National Counter Terrorism Center (NATC) and told officials that he wanted to replicate the same in India as well as enlarge the scope of the 24x7 Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) that analyses intelligence inputs. Similarly increasing security in mass transport systems was another concern.

"From learning about the security of the mass transport system at New York's Penn station, which handles thousands of train passengers daily and how a mega city like New York could be protected from terrorists without causing inconvenience, the home minister was impressed by the unobtrusive security," said a senior ministry functionary.

Chidambaram travelled by train from New York to Washington, so he saw the security at Penn station as officials went through the procedure of random frisking and searching of passengers.

Mass transportation systems have been attractive targets for terrorist organisations the world over and India has been no exception. National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan has earlier described damage and attacks to rail links as a tempting proposition for terror groups.

The serial attacks in Mumbai's commuter trains in July 2006 killing at least 187 people was the worst instance of an attack by terrorists on India's mass transport system. A year later, blasts ripped through the Samjhauta Express, a train bound from India to Pakistan, killing at least 66 people.


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