The Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS) project which was launched in 2009 for digitally connecting all the police stations and digitising all existing FIRs has got the renewed focus of the PM Narendra Modi government as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has allocated Rs. 250 crore for this ambitious project in budget 2016-17.
Since its inception in 2009, the project has been languishing because of many reasons including non-allocation of funds in last two consecutive budgets of 2014-15 and 2015-16, which according to the experts, seriously “hampered” the overall progress of the project.
Basically, in the aftermath of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, the UPA government launched the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS) project to connect all the police stations in the country. Former Union Home Minister P Chidambaram who sanctioned the project was of the view that each police station was an island, where records were maintained manually. The police of any state barely “talked” among themselves, or with the police of other states. Therefore, “a seamless, technology-driven network in which any police station could “talk” to another police station in real time, was needed.”
However, since the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the project on June 19, 2009 with an allocation of Rs 2000 crore, nothing substantial has changed on the ground. Like other e-governance projects, CCTNS is also shuffling among central nodal agency – NCRB, the nodal agency of states – SCRB and private system integrators (SIs) from the last six years.
The initial deadline for the project was 2012, which was revised to March 2015. Initially, Rs 37.23 crore were given in the 2012-13 Budget and Rs 120 crore in the 2013-14 Budget. Thereafter no funding was given to this project in previous two budgets. However, in the wake of the recent Paris attacks, the PM Narendra Modi government has decided to fast track the project and complete it by March 2017.
According to NCRB report, of the Rs 2,000 crore outlay that includes operation and maintenance up to March 2022, Rs 878 crore has already been released to implementing agencies.
The latest data from NCRB shows over 11,600 police stations across the country are now using the CCTNS system to register FIRs and over the past one year, more than 26 Lakhs FIRs have been registered through CCTNS.
The importance of the project could be understood from the fact that in October 2009, the Kolkata police arrested a person and held him in prison for 45 days in connection with a petty theft case and then let him off with a fine of Rs 90 because there was no means of verifying the false name—Md. Arshad—that he gave at the time of his arrest. According to The National Investigation Agency (NIA), he was none other than Mohammed Ahmed Zarar Siddibappa, also known as Yasin Bhatkal, an alleged Indian Mujahideen commander, who is alleged to have subsequently carried out terrorist attacks in Pune, Bangalore, Varanasi, Delhi and Hyderabad.
Would this have happened if there was a system in place to fetch real time data about crime and criminals? Possibly not. That is why expert like Ajai Sahni, Director of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi, says “CCTNS is one of the single most critical project for India’s internal security. Networks like these are a fundamental requirement of modern policing and security management. Therefore, we need it on priority basis.”