From a potential nerve centre for all intelligence agencies to an embarrassment for the government, the woes of the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) seem far from over. The Central Information Commission (CIC) has now threatened the agency that if it doesn’t furnish information related to the procurement scam, for which it was indicted by the CAG leading to an ongoing government probe, the commission will initiate action against it.
Faced with a corruption scandal, its disregard for the CIC is only likely to fuel allegations of a cover up. A CIC letter dated August 24 to NTRO warns that if the relevant information, as sought by former NTRO scientist and whistleblower V K Mittal in RTI applications, is not provided in the next 10 working days, the commission will take necessary action “without any further reference being made to you”.
Mittal first highlighted the discrepancies in purchase of security equipment in 2009 after which then national security adviser M K Narayanan recommended an audit by CAG which, in turn, highlighted grave misdoings.
As an intelligence agency, NTRO comes under the second schedule of the RTI Act and is not “ordinarily obliged” to give any information, as it argued in a hearing before chief information commissioner Satyananda Mishra in March this year. Mishra, however, agreed with Mittal that since NTRO had itself earlier agreed to provide some of the information related to procurement of equipment and other records, it had no reason to now backtrack.
In all, CIC examined 26 applications seeking information from NTRO. Only in two of these did NTRO provide “rudimentary” information while completely ignoring the remaining ones.
NTRO came into existence after the Kargil war when the government felt the need to have an agency which would deal with technical inputs and help all intelligence agencies. It soon got involved in a turf war with RAW, India’s external intelligence arm, with many accusing the two organisations of only duplicating each other’s capabilities. Since it was formed, government has pumped over Rs 8,000 crore into its functioning.
While not following the March 31 order passed by the chief information commissioner, NTRO also did not bother to challenge it in the high court. Among other things, NTRO is also accused of procuring UAVs which could not be used for gathering intelligence in areas infested by naxalites. An internal inquiry by NTRO had also found officials guilty but its report only recommended minor penalties for the accused officials. The PMO, however, rejected this saying that the offence was too serious to dismissed with a mere minor penalty.
-via The Times of India.