In Minority Report, a 2002 American science fiction mystery-thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Cruise, the police department is able to apprehend criminals based on foreknowledge. It is set primarily in Washington, DC, and Northern Virginia in the year 2054, where future technology makes it possible for cops to catch criminals before a crime is committed. While technology is definitely changing the way police departments operate in the West, here’s a real-life example from closer home on what might happen in its absence.
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 National Investigation Agency (NIA), a central agency established by the government to combat terror in India, 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.
The moot point is this: Would this glaring lapse on the part of Kolkata police have happened if there was a system in place to fetch real-time data about crime and criminals? Possibly not. In the wake of increased terror threats, the government has decided to give top priority for police modernisation. Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS), a mission mode project under the National e-Governance Pan of the government, has been put on fast track and key personnel involved in the project reveal that this unique initiative will be up and running by March 2017.
Rajesh Ramachandran, president and CTO at Rolta India, says, “CCTNS is a bigger vision of the government to connect various police stations digitally and enable the police to take decisions based on real time data related to crime and criminals.” The concept of CCTNS was first conceived by the then home minister, P Chidambaram in the aftermath of 2008 Mumbai attacks. He 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.”
As such, CCTNS is aimed at digitally connecting all the police stations in the country and digitising all existing first information reports (FIR) and other crime records. Once digitised, intelligent insights could be drawn by analysing the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data. Ajai Sahni, director of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi, tells FE: “CCTNS is the single most critical project for India’s internal security. Networks like these are a fundamental requirement of modern policing and security management; similar systems have already been established several decades ago in the west.”
Mired in delay
However, ever since the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the project on June 19, 2009 with an allocation of R2,000 crore, nothing substantial has changed on the ground. Like many other e-governance programmes in the country, CCTNS is also shuffling between central nodal agency NCRB, and the nodal agency of states, State Crime Record Bureau (SCRB) and private system integrators (SIs) for the last five years. In fact, in the two consecutive budgets of 2014-15 and 2015-16, no funds were allocated for CCTNS which seriously hampered the progress of the project. But in the wake of the recent Paris attacks, the government seems to shaken off the dust, and has now decided to fast track the project and complete it by March 2017.
Sanjay Sahay, who earlier headed the police computer wing in Karnataka government, says that the CCNTS project seems a simple project on face value. However, in reality, it is far different. “It is a complex project as there are multiple central and state agencies involved in it. Police, law & order is a state subject and systems across states are not uniform,” points out Sahay.
Basically, a state selects a system integrator, sets up a state data centre (SDC) usually with the help of National Informatics Centre (NIC), and then connects all the police stations with this data centre with the help of connectivity providers such as BSNL. It finally syncs all the SDCs with National Data Centres at New Delhi, Pune and Hyderabad which function as disaster recovery (DR) sites. And, on top of this, the NCRB provides a standard core application software (CAS) which police stations use for lodging FIRs and for entering data.
According to latest data from NCRB, 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 lakh FIRs were registered through CCTNS. In 35 states and union territories, 11 companies are working as system integrators. After carefully analysing the monthly reports sent by state units to NCRB, few things appear to be common across the board – there is delay in data digitisation by SIs, hand holding resources are either of poor quality or yet to be deployed, payment for systems integrators are pending and there is serious deficiency in
different versions of CAS.
“I agree that digitising the legacy document is a huge challenge. The number of legacy FIRs and other documents that need to be digitised is huge. But I believe that once it is done, the second phase of CCTNS, which is related to crime analysis will bring significant value to the overall police modernisation and will surely help the police in managing the city more efficiently,” says Ramachandran.
Can cloud be the answer?
“We are clearly aware about the problems? Today everything is falling into place except the network. The time has come to look at the alternatives. Today, cost effective cloud infrastructure which can directly “talk” to different networks is available. Different police stations could be connected through a robust and secure cloud network which can be called a CCTNS Cloud. This will help in solving the problem of connecting end-points in CCTNS for sharing the information among police stations” states Ramachandran.
Without doubt, with the CCTNS in place police officers across the nation will have the resources at their disposal to investigate and solve cases in an efficient manner.
Key benefits of CCTNS
Make the police functioning citizen-friendly and more transparent by automation.
Improve delivery of citizen-centric services through effective usage of ICT.
Provide the cops with tools, technology and information to facilitate investigation of crime and detection of criminals.
Improve police functioning in law and order, traffic management etc.
Facilitate interaction and sharing of information among police stations.
Assist senior police officers in better management of Police Force.
Reduce manual and redundant records keeping