Government’s ‘Big Brother’ project mangled in red tape

By: |
February 01, 2015 2:30 AM

Way past the 2013 deadline, even basic infrastructure for the project is not in place

CMS project, CMS project track, surveillance system, surveillance system India, surveillance system BSNL, surveillance system newsBSNL has sought the intervention of the DoT against Telecom Enforcement, Resource and Monitoring (TERM) Cell and private telcos for not cooperating.

The Centralised Monitoring System (CMS) project being developed post-Mumbai terror strikes in 2008 to track all forms of communications like wireless, satellite, internet, voice over internet protocol and landline calls, through an automated surveillance system, is caught in red tape.

State-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) has sought the intervention of the department of telecommunications (DoT) against Telecom Enforcement, Resource and Monitoring (TERM) Cell and private telcos for not cooperating.

BSNL has written to DoT and stated that a large number of multi protocol label switching (MPLS) links were pending for commissioning due to the problem of low and asymmetrical bandwidth in end-to-end testing, which has also been reported to Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT).

C-DoT is the government’s telecom research agency that has been tasked with executing the CMS project, and was given a deadline to complete the project by November 2013. BSNL sources said they will need a few more months to connect the current telecom infrastructure.

BSNL, while pointing out lack of support by the TERM cell, cited a letter from senior deputy director general heading the TERM cell at DoT, where TERM cells in states have been directed not to get involved in C-DOT-CMS work.

“The senior DDG is of the view that security wing (at DoT) is the agency concerned that should be involved in the project and not TERM,” BSNL has said in its complaint to the DoT.

BSNL further requested DoT to issue “necessary directions to TERM cells to involve themselves in coordination at the local level or at least direct the telecom companies for testing and commissioning of MPLS links. This will facilitate timely completion of C-DOT — CMS-MPLS connectivity work”.

After the terror strike in Mumbai in 2008, the security agencies are banking heavily on the CMS project, as it would target private information of individuals since it will enable real-time tracking of online activities, phone calls, social media conversations and text messages.

As a result of the delay, the R400-crore automated surveillance system, which would have been capable of tracking all forms of communications, is yet to be in place despite being conceived three years ago.

BSNL said the 21 regional monitoring centres are still not ready as they have not been able to connect it with telecom service providers, besides other agencies.

Also, a bulk of a virtual private network that will be the backbone of CMS is yet to be built. These networks will use a MPLS technology being built by BSNL.

The delayed rollout of automated surveillance system has also upset plans by the security agencies for procuring lawful interception and monitoring (LIM) systems. Last year, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had dropped its plans to buy LIM systems after the C-DOT had assured the CBI that it would have access to similar gear once it is plugged on to the CMS system being developed.

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