Central Monitoring System, NATGRID Delayed: Report

Guy FauxThe Central Monitoring System (CMS), India’s version of PRISM, has been delayed till end of the year due to lack of requisite infrastructure, according to a new report. The system was launched as a test project in some states earlier this year (sometime around March).

India has delayed the full-fledged deployment of the indigenously built Centralised Monitoring System which can track all communication traffic – wireless and fixed line, satellite, internet, e-mails and voice over internet protocol ( VoIP) calls – at least till December 2013, The Economic Times reported.

The monitoring system worries privacy advocates across India due to the the nature in which the data is collected and the access it gives to government agencies. The unlimited access government and its agencies will have to the data especially in the absence of strict privacy laws in India, is a question of concern.

According to an internal telecom ministry memo cited in the report, the system was slated to be place in 10 states by March 2013, the deadline for which has now been extended to the year-end. This note states that tenders for equipment that would be housed in the remote monitoring centres (RMCs) were ready, but the delay in setting up of these centres had pushed back the project. It further added that orders for ISF (Interception Store-and-Forward) equipment had so far been placed in only seven service areas.

Another such project by the government is NATGRID (National Intelligence Grid). This project will make it easy for security agencies including RAW, IB, CBI, Enforcement Directorate and others to access collated data from 21 different categories of databases including railway and air travel, income tax, phone records, credit card transactions, bank accounts, property records and other details.

The project was proposed right after the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008 to improve India’s anti-terror intelligence. It was supposed to be operational by 2013 but now has been delayed till next year. The project is being undertaken at a cost of around Rs. 1200 crores and will be deployed in 4 phases, of which the first 2 phases will be deployed by 2014. NATGRID will be headed by Raghu Raman, appointed Secretary and CEO of the project, who was previously with Satyam Land Systems. The government was looking for ‘high calibre professionals’ to work on the NATGRID project and was willing to pay handsomely for it, with salaries ranging from Rs 85,000 per month to Rs 3 lakhs a month.

The government has been planning and implementing various projects to snoop on its citizens in the name of national security. In some cases this has led to banning or blocking of application likeWeChat.

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