After deciding not to renew Natgrid CEO Raghu Raman’s contract, the NDA government has initiated the process of finding his successor to take forward the project that envisages linking various databases of an individual to help track terror activity. Pending the appointment of the new CEO, however, the government is likely to either name the next in command at Natgrid as its officiating chief or give additional charge to the head of another agency working under the Union home ministry.
Senior officials of the home ministry insisted that the decision not to extend Raman’s tenure, which ended on May 31, was not a reflection on the fate of the Natgrid project. The first phase of the project and a part of the second phase of the project are scheduled to be completed by June 30, 2016.
The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had in June 2011 approved Rs 1,002.97 crore for implementation of foundation, Horizon-1 and part of Horizon-11 of the Natgrid project. “The project is on track and will progress as scheduled,” a home ministry official said, adding that the new CEO will be appointed soon.
Raghu Raman, a former CEO of Mahindra Defence Land System, was brought in as Natgrid chief in December 2009. His steep pay packet – Rs 10 lakh monthly salary along with entitlements of top-level officers – had raised eyebrows.
The reservations of ministries like finance to merging databases like income tax returns, bank account details etc into Natgrid had initially delayed launch of the project. Even after CCS finally approved the funding of Natgrid, red-tape continued to hold up its operationalisation.
Natgrid framework will use cutting edge technology to help strengthen the ability of intelligence and law enforcement agencies to detect terrorist activity. It will enable agencies to swiftly piece together information from a set of databases such as telephone records, credit card details, passport and immigration information, bank account details, income-tax returns, etc to pre-empt terror attacks or find the perpetrators in the event of a strike.