A list of three names, shortlisted after interviews held last month, has been sent to the Prime Minister’s Office for appointment of the next CEO of the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID). Besides acting CEO Ashok Prasad, the other two names shortlisted are Bihar cadre IPS officer Satish Chandra Jha and Maharashtra cadre IPS officer Sanjay Pandey, sources told The Indian Express.
Prasad, a 1979 batch Andhra Pradesh cadre IPS officer, served as Special Secretary (Internal Security) in the Union Home Ministry till he retired on January 31. Jha, from the 1981 batch, served as Special Director in the Intelligence Bureau till his superannuation also on January 31. Pandey, from the 1986 batch, is currently posted in Mumbai as Additional Director General, Home Guards, Maharashtra.
“Ashok Prasad, who is currently holding charge as NATGRID CEO is definitely the frontrunner for the post. Due to his long stint in the IB, he definitely meets the criteria of experience in multi-agency intelligence work. The government also might be inclined to compensate him with the job after he lost the race to become the IB chief to his junior, Dineshwar Sharma,” said a source.
Sources added that others interviewed for the post included former DG of the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) Navneet Rajan Wasan, a 1980 batch Andhra Pradesh cadre officer who retired on November 30 last year. From the private sector, Dr Sundeep Oberoi, the Global Head for Niche Technology Delivery Group in TCS, was also interviewed for the job.
The interviews were conducted on January 15 by the DG CERT-IN, a special director in the IB who is tipped to be the next Director IB and two Home Ministry officials.
According to sources, while Prasad is clearly the strongest contender for the job, Pandey, a BTech in Computer Science from IIT Kanpur, could be a dark horse on account of his technical background. Pandey quit the IPS in 2000 and worked in the private sector. He was the global head of information security practice at TCS from 2000 to 2003, before starting his own cyber security firm. He was reinstated in the police force in 2005 after he moved the Central Administrative Tribunal, and has six years till his retirement.
Candidates for the post should be Masters in Electronics, IT or equivalent with experience of working in the IT related field for at least 25 years, preference being given to candidates with working experience in the field of IT/cyber security, or in setting up wide networks; or an All India Services officer having worked in the field of intelligence and policing for a period of at least 25 years, preferably with experience of inter-agency intelligence work.
The appointment will be on deputation or contract basis for an initial period of three years, extendable by two years at a time, till attaining the age of 65 years. The maximum period of engagement as CEO for an individual can be five years.
The thrust behind NATGRID, a key project conceived by former Home Minister P Chidambaram in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai attack and started in 2009, was to bolster India’s counter-terrorism capabilities. The project entails combining 21 sensitive databases relating to domains such as banks, credit cards, cell phone usage, immigration records, motor vehicle registrations, Income Tax records and National Crime Records Bureau into a single database for access by authorised officers from ten Central agencies such as RAW, IB, CBI, DRI and ED. It is essentially a data transfer tool that hopes to give investigators a 360 degree profile of a suspect.