Thursday, May 19, 2011

Natgrid Project Of India Is Still In Troubled Waters

National intelligence grid (Natgrid) project of India is in trouble from the very beginning. With absolute secrecy and no regard for the civil liberties of Indians, this was definitely a controversial project. Home Minister of India P Chidambaram also did not bother to do the needful. Instead he tried his level best to get Natgrid project of India cleared from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) of India.

However, it seems CCS does not agree with the idea and implementation mechanism of Natgrid project. Lack of privacy safeguards has stalled Natgrid project for the time being and Home Ministry is trying hard to get it functional. Even the term of Raghu Raman, project coordinator of Natgrid, is expiring no 31st May, 2011. Till now there are no positive developments and signs that CCS would approve Natgrid project of Home Ministry. CCS may consider the feasibility of Natgrid project next month.

Meanwhile, a 900 page Detailed Project Report (DPR) has been sent to the CCS members to study the feasibility, implications and requirements of Natgrid project. The DPR claims that Natgrid project would be finally and fully put in place in four phases extending between 24 to 36 months. Extension of the term of Raghu Raman may also be considered.

Many experts in India have been questioning the way Natgrid project has been ignoring civil liberties in India. Further, experts have also been demanding that a balance must be maintained between civil liberties and national security requirements. Although the Natgrid project has been granted in principle clearance yet it failed to satisfy the CCS regarding the civil liberty protection requirements.

Another factor that is going against the Natgrid project is that intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies of India are practically governed by no law. There is no Parliamentary oversight over these agencies. Even Natgrid project is also not supported b by any legal framework. To make the matter worst we have no privacy, data security and data protection laws in India. Even the cyber law of India has conferred unregulated and unreasonable e-surveillance, Internet censorship and website blocking powers in the hands of Indian government and its agencies.

These are very serious constitutional issues that cannot be taken lightly by Home Ministry, Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and CCS. The CCS must consider the inputs and suggestions of various techno legal experts of India before clearing Natgrid project.

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