Signalling impending change in the higher echelons of the intelligence establishment, the NDA Government has decided not to renew the contract of Raghu Raman, CEO, National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID). One of the UPA’s biggest showpiece internal security projects to build a database that could be accessed by multiple agencies, the project has been crawling.
While formal orders have not been issued yet, Home Ministry officials have confirmed to The Indian Express that the NATGRID head office in New Delhi has been informed about the CEO’s contract not being renewed, a day after it was to end on May 31.
While Raman himself did not respond to calls or text messages, it is understood he had agreed to accept a two-year extension when the UPA sounded him out in April. The orders, however, did not arrive. And just three days ago the NATGRID office was informed orally that such an extension had been denied.
The NATGRID was conceived by the UPA Government in 2008 after the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai as an intelligence database which would have networked 21 sets of data sources to provide quick and secure access of information to about 10 intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
These data sources include records related to immigration entry and exit, banking and financial transactions and telecommunications. The agencies include the Intelligence Bureau, local police and revenue and Customs departments.
While the clearance for NATGRID from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) came in 2011, execution of the project slowed down after the exit of Home Minister P Chidambaram in July 2012. Officials said that “very little’’ progress was made on the execution of NATGRID projects in the last one year resulting in the agency refunding a substantial amount of its funds as unspent to the Government. The current year’s financial outlay for the project is around Rs 1000 crore.
Not renewing the CEO’s contract has put a question mark on the future of the ambitious intelligence grid, with the organisation not even being called to make a presentation before the new Home Minister Rajnath Singh. NATGRID employs around 70 personnel, drawn from both the Government and private sectors, and it remains to be seen if the NDA Government scouts for a new NATGRID head or gives the intelligence grid a thumbs down.
Raman was appointed as CEO on December 1, 2009. He is a retired military officer who was working as CEO of Mahindra Defence Land System.