After months of uncertainty, the government on Monday gave its in-principle approval to National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), which will facilitate robust information sharing among law enforcement agencies to combat terror threat at home and abroad.
The clearance came after a detailed briefing and presentation about the NATGRID project along with safeguards and oversight mechanisms was given by the Ministry of Home Affairs to the members of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
"The CCS has given in-principle approval to the project and has instructed the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to proceed accordingly," an official spokesperson said.
The NATGRID will have access to about 21 categories of database like railway and air travel, income tax, bank account details, credit card transactions, visa and immigration records.
The project, once comes into existence, will facilitate robust information sharing by security agencies and law enforcement agencies to combat terror threat.
As per the initial plan, access to the combined data will be given to 11 agencies, which include various Central intelligence agencies and the National Investigation Agency among others.
The idea was floated after the November 26, 2008 Mumbai terror attack. Many feel that had NATGRID existed, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative David Headley would not have a free run prior and after the 26/11 strike.
The project was hanging in balance since December 2010 due to the "turf war" among various stakeholders, particularly Ministries of Defence and Finance, which felt that the Home Ministry would have uninterrupted access to all information under their jurisdiction if becomes operational, sources said.
The detailed project report of NATGRID was ready in December 2010. The project was launched in December 2009 and was targeted to operationalise by May 2011.
Earlier, the government had extended the services of Chief Executive Officer of Natgrid Raghu Raman for six more months beginning June 1.
The idea was floated after the November 26, 2008 Mumbai terror attack. Many feel that had NATGRID existed, Lashkar-e-Taiba operative David Headley would not have a free run prior and after the 26/11 strike.
The entire project will be completed in three years.
Officials also allayed fear that the NATGRID will get personal information like bank accounts details of any individual, saying only name, address of those who are suspect will be looked into.
"We will not touch anyone who is not a suspect. Besides, only name, addresses and activities of a suspect will be looked into. So, innocent should have no fear that government will intrude their personal life," an official said.