Four months after the post of National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) chief fell vacant, the NDA government may finally settle for an academician to head the ambitious internal security project. Former IIT-Kanpur Director Sanjay Govind Dhande is the top contender for the post, for which five other names are under consideration. The final decision is to be taken by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
Speaking to The Indian Express, Dhande, who was awarded a Padma Shri in 2013, said, “I believe my name is doing the rounds for the post but I have not got any official confirmation yet.”
The post fell vacant after the NDA government refused to renew the contract of Raghu Raman, who had a corporate sector background, due to an adverse Intelligence Bureau report that alleged “personal and professional misconduct” on his part. Raman had denied the allegations.
NATGRID was conceived in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and seeks to integrate over 20 categories of datasets from agencies like banks, railways, airlines, income tax department, credit card companies, immigration and others, and make it available to designated law enforcement officers to enable them to track criminals. Its work was still under progress when Raghu Raman left.
Dhande is not new to the security establishment, having been appointed a member of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) in 2013 by the UPA government. NSAB, a multi-disciplinary body comprising experts from outside the government, aids and advises the National Security Council housed in the Prime Minister’s Office.
The government has been deliberating on appointing a full-time chief for NATGRID for the past one month, amid a debate over whether it should be headed by a bureaucrat or somebody from the private sector.
“It is high time the NATGRID CEO is appointed as it is an important project from the point of internal security. The government is very close to selecting the name,” said a source.
The NATGRID project, which had been dropped from the government’s priority list in the last couple of years with its budget also slashed substantially in 2013, is being given a fresh lease of life by the NDA government.