Senior IPS officer Ashok Patnaik was on Wednesday appointed CEO of the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), an ambitious intelligence gathering mechanism conceived in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.
The post has been vacant since May 2014, when Raghu Raman completed his tenure — ad hoc and interim arrangements were made in the last two years.
Patnaik, a 1983-batch IPS officer of Gujarat cadre, is married to former PM Manmohan Singh’s daughter, Daman Singh. He was serving as an additional director in the Intelligence Bureau.
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A home ministry spokesperson confirmed that the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet had approved Patnaik’s appointment. “The appointment of CEO, NATGRID will be effective from the date of assumption of charge of the post up to December 31, 2018 i.e. the date of his retirement on superannuation or until further orders, whichever is earlier,” said the spokesperson.
NATGRID, conceived by former Home Minister P Chidambaram to bolster India’s counter-terrorism capabilities, entails combining 21 sensitive databases related to domains like banks, credit cards, cellphone usage, immigration records, motor vehicle registrations, Income Tax records and National Crime Records Bureau into a single database for access by authorised officers from 10 central agencies like R&AW, IB, CBI, DRI and ED. It is essentially a data transfer tool that hopes to give investigators a 360 degree profile of a suspect. In the first phase, 10 user agencies and 21 service providers will be connected, while about 950 additional organisations will be connected later.
The Rs 3,400 crore NATGRID project was approved by Cabinet Committee on Security in June 2011. Last year, it received a fresh thrust with the government roping in National Informatics Centre to create a state-of-the-art networking system for the project. In August 2015, South Delhi Municipal Corporation approved allotment of a 10-acre plot for NATGRID. Construction began in February, according to the home ministry. Last month, PM Narendra Modi reviewed the progress on NATGRID and the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems, a project launched by the previous UPA government in 2009 aimed at connecting 15,000 police stations across the country and an additional 5,000 offices of supervisory police officers.
Funds allocated for NATGRID in Budget Estimates 2015-16 under plan allocation was Rs 52.94 crore. This was reduced to 16.81 crore in Revised
Estimates 2015-16. The plan allocation for the project in Budget Estimates 2016-17 stands at Rs 45 crore.