Tag Archives | NCTC

Understanding Mamata’s logic

Maoist insurgency is a national security issue but terror is exclusively a state subject

Despite the Union Home Ministry coming out with a six-point standard operating procedure (SOP) for the operations division of proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) — under which the NCTC’s power to arrest, search and seize will be shared with heads of the anti-terrorism squads (ATS) of the states, who would be the designated authorities of the NCTC at the state level — West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee continues to oppose the NCTC. She in fact does not want NCTC in any form as it goes against the federal structure of the Indian republic.

Clearly, Ms Banerjee is firm on the principle that law and order is exclusively a state subject. Law and order, for her, also includes terror,  and thus the Centre should have no direct role to play in countering terror. Logically, if terror is a law and order issue, so should be the threat posed by the Maoists. Thus the same principle of terror being an exclusive state responsibility must also apply to the Maoist problem.

Not so when it comes to Ms Banerjee. Here is what she has told the Union Home Ministry when it asked the West Bengal government to reimburse the cost of central forces deployed in the state:

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has now taken on the Centre over the Home Ministry’s letter asking Bengal to pay Rs 423 crore for retaining Central forces… Mamata, sources said, has written back to the Centre arguing that Maoist insurgency can’t be seen as just a law and order problem since it involves issues of national security. Therefore, she reasoned, if Central forces are deployed to counter this problem, the expenses have to be entirely borne by the Centre.[Indian Express]

Maoist insurgency can’t be seen as just a law and order problem since it involves issues of national security. But terror is a law and order problem which doesn’t need any action by the Centre. Only Ms Banerjee can explain her contradictory assertions. Or perhaps she doesn’t need to. After all, India is passing through weird times where “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” and it’s all covered in “fog and filthy air”.

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Home Minister answers the questions

A need for more transparency in providing information.

After the Mumbai blasts in July earlier this year, this blogger had posted four questions for the Union Home Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram. You can read them here or here. The questions were about the lack of progress in four critical institutions pertaining to internal security: CCTNS, NATGRID, NCTC and a Ministry for Internal Security.

In his speech while inaugurating the DGPs/IGPs Conference at Delhi today, the Home Minister answered three of the four questions.

Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS). From time to time there have been slippages but we have taken corrective steps and I am hopeful that the nationwide network will be in place by March, 2013. Some States have not yet selected the system integrator; some have not yet set up State Data Centre. These are matters that require the personal attention of the DGP of the State.

The other ambitious project is NATGRID. Government approved the project on June 6, 2011 and I believe that it is proceeding according to schedule and the phases that have been approved will be completed in 18 months.

The most important unfinished agenda is the National Counter Terrorism Centre. It was an idea that I had unveiled in my Intelligence Bureau Centenary Endowment Lecture delivered in December, 2009. The underlying premise is that there is a subtle difference between anti-terrorism and counter terrorism. To borrow a phrase from the National Strategy for Counter Terrorism published by the US Government in June, 2011, the goal must be “to disrupt, dismantle and eventually defeat” the terrorist groups. Today, we do not have an organisation devoting its whole time and energy to that task. I hope to secure a Government decision on setting up the NCTC. Once there is a decision, I am confident that the core team of NCTC can be installed within 60 days and the full structure can be put together within 12-18 months.[PIB]

While work on CCTNS and NATGRID has finally started, albeit belatedly, the proposal for an NCTC is being spoken about now. But what is completely missing from the agenda is a dedicated Ministry for Internal Security. If one were to be cynical, would it need another big terror attack to get the idea of a ministry for internal security up for discussion?

Another noteworthy highlight of the speech was the Home Minister’s willingness to share more information about actions taken to prevent terror attacks.

Since 26/11, security forces and intelligence agencies have neutralised 51 terror modules. To illustrate, Abdul Latif and Riyaz who were planning to attack ONGC installations were arrested in Mumbai in March, 2010. Zia ul Haque was arrested in Hyderabad in May, 2010 and a major terrorist action against a multinational company was disrupted. A 10 member SIMI module was busted in Madhya Pradesh in June, 2011 and their plan to assassinate three Judges was foiled.[PIB]

This should hold a lesson for the home ministry too. They should stop classifying every information as ‘sensitive’ or ‘confidential’. They could make the interrogation details of suspects — up to a certain level — more accessible to the public. Unless the ministry communicates to the public what it has done successfully, the attention will always be directed at its failures. The role of counter-terror machinery is akin to those of a goal-keeper in football or a wicket-keeper in cricket. You only get noticed for your mistakes; the successes are a part of your routine.

Finally, the Home Ministry must advice all the state police departments to update their websites with more relevant information — the dossiers of the Most Wanted, and the confessions and charge-sheets of those arrested and convicted in terror cases.

In these cynical times, an emphasis on increased transparency in their dealings will not only regenerate the common man’s trust on the government agencies but also make the agencies more accountable and responsible. It means that there should be no need for anyone to ask questions of the government agencies. The answers should always be publicly available.

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Why o’ why?

Four questions for the Home Minister.

Qn #1: Where is the CCTNS?

Realising the gross deficiency in connectivity between police stations, the Central Government decided to implement an ambitious scheme called “Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System (CCTNS).”  It was conceived on 7th May, 2008 as per MHA’s letter No. IV.24021/2/08-PM-I dated 7th May 2008, well before the Mumbai terror strike. The goals of the system were to facilitate collection, storage, retrieval, analysis, transfer and sharing of data and information at the police station and between the police station and the State Headquarters and the Central Police Organisations.

The progress report of the CCTNS at the NCRB website (here) tells that the project is yet to see the light of the day. Why?

Qn #2: Where is the NCTC?

The National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) ws to be set up with the broad mandate to deal with all kinds of terrorist violence directed against the country and the people. As the name suggests, the goal is to counter terrorism.  This was to include preventing a terrorist attack, containing a terrorist attack should one take place, and responding to a terrorist attack by inflicting pain upon the perpetrators.  NCTC was to therefore have to perform functions relating to intelligence, investigation and operations. As per the proposal, while the nature of the response to different kinds of terror has to be different and nuanced, NCTC’s mandate would be to respond to violence unleashed by any group – be it an insurgent group in the North East or the CPI (Maoist) in the heartland of India or any group of religious fanatics anywhere in India acting on their own or in concert with terrorists outside India.

The United States was able to create the NCTC from scratch within 36 months of September 11, 2001.  You had promised that India must succeed in setting up the NCTC by the end of 2010 but your recently retired Home Secretary accepts that the NCTC is in a limbo, with the proposal not even approved by the government so far. Why?

Qn #3: Where is the NATGRID?

NATGRID, an umbrella organisation of investigating agencies to provide quick-time response to the demand for information on suspected terrorists and offenders of the law. It was meant to be the basic foundation over which the “new architecture of India’s security” promised by you had to take shape. Under NATGRID, 21 sets of databases are to  be networked to achieve quick, seamless and secure access to desired information for intelligence/enforcement agencies.

You had promised in December 2009 that this project was likely to be completed in 18 – 24 months from then. However, only the in-principle approval for the first phase of the project has been given by the Union Cabinet last month. Why?

Qn #4: Where is the Ministry of Internal Security?

Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) performs a number of functions that have no direct relation to internal security.  For example, it has a division dealing with freedom fighters but it does not have even a desk for dealing exclusively with forensic science.  There are other divisions or desks that deal with Centre-State Relations, State Legislation, Human Rights, Union Territories, Disaster Management, Census among other subjects.  Internal security is a more important function that deserves the highest attention.

Late K Subrahmanyam had strongly advocated the the setting up of a ministry — under the charge of a Cabinet Minister — that would be dedicated to internal security. He opined that internal security should not be part of the Home Ministry’s responsibilities. Just as we have a ministry for external security, which is the Ministry of Defence, India needs a Ministry for Internal Security.

In 2009, you had suggested that subjects not directly related to internal security should be dealt with by a separate Ministry or should be brought under a separate Department in the MHA and dealt with by a Minister, more or less independently, without referring every issue to the Home Minister.  The Home Minister should devote the whole of his/her time and energy to matters relating to security. Evidently, there has been no progress on this promise so far. Why?

(A version of this blogpost, along with this one, appears at Outlook Web)

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