Super State in the making: Chidambaram’s Natgrid gets Cabinet approval

The Government has given its preliminary nod for the setting up of India’s biggest security and monitoring network — the National Grid or NATGRID.

The network, a brainchild of home minister P Chidambaram, will link most of India’s separate data stores with different agencies such as the banking regulator, national crime bureau etc.. The network is supposed to help the government track terrorist and other criminal activity, but has raised the prospect of a super state with nearly unlimited powers to snoop into individuals’ private lives and control them.

“A detailed briefing and presentation about the NATGRID project along with safeguards and oversight mechanisms was given by Ministry of Home Affairs to the members of the Cabinet Committee on Security here today. The CCS has given in principle approval for the project and has instructed MHA to proceed accordingly,” a statement from the government said.

Eleven agencies will have access to the database including the Intelligence Bureau, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Military Intelligence, Revenue Intelligence, National Intelligence Agency and National Security Council.

They will be able to access an individual’s data such as bank balances and transactions, insurance policies, property owned or rented, travel, income tax returns, driving records, automobiles owned or leased, credit card transactions, stock market trades, phone calls, emails and SMSes, websites visited, etc. using UID and other identifiers at a single click.

The Natgrid, while helping avoid events such as India’s faux pas with the ‘most wanted’ list last month, has also encountered opposition from ministries such as those of Finance and Defence, who feel that unauthorized officials from home ministry may access sensitive data outside of their official needs.