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Namrata Biji Ahuja
Namrata Biji Ahuja

cyber terrorism

Domain experts to be part of restructured MHA

CYBER-ATTACK/FAILURES (File photo) Representational image

When Home Minister Rajnath Singh was busy visiting the international borders and interacting with soldiers guarding the borders round the clock, he was reminded of something his predecessors would not have thought some time ago. He said the enemy is no longer going to either limit or drain its resources to unleash terror by merely physically crossing over into Indian territory with all the paraphernalia needed for carrying out a strike like the 26/11.

Singh began telling the ministry officials accompanying him on such trips that the internal security preparedness needs to look beyond borders and prepare for the future. With the click of a button , a terror attack or a financial onslaught can be unleashed by inimical forces sitting in any part of the world.

To him, it was the “cyber threat” and new age terrorism in the form of “radicalisation” that was going to be the two most challenging tasks for security forces and law enforcement agencies in the foreseeable future.

This gave birth to the idea of making the home ministry fit for the 21st century and futuristic in its approach .

The idea had already been touched upon by the top most bureaucrat in the ministry Rajiv Mehrishi when he spoke to the top cops of the states at the last DGP conference chaired by the prime minister last year.

But when it was time to roll it out and after due deliberations, the ministry decided to merge its expansive centre-state division (looking after law and order issues and policy making concerning states) and judicial division (handling mercy petitions and law making processes) to make way for creation of two new divisions—the Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Radicalisation (CTCR) and Cyber and Information Security (CIS).

These two new divisions would specifically handle threats from radicalisation and cyber fraud respectively. The aim would be to finally create a cyber command structure with a state of the art national cyber forensic lab.

With the creation of the new divisions also came a new thought on how these tasks need to be handled. Bureaucracy has its limitations. For the first time, the home ministry has decided to rope in domain experts on cyber security who would act as the expert staff running the CIS division and coordinating with various agencies like CERT, CBI, NIA, IB, MEITY and RBI among others for a cohesive approach towards tackling cyber frauds and cyber attacks.

To begin with, a director level officer will handle the CIS division along with domain experts. The CTCR division is looking for a joint secretary level officer who has expertise in tackling issues concerning law enforcement and an understanding of complex social issues to be able to draw up a policy at the central level for counter radicalisation efforts.

Senior MHA officials said while India has still not faced a terror onslaught by radicalised elements unlike some other countries, imminent threats from “lone wolf attacks” are possible. The CTCR division will coordinate counter radicalisation efforts of IB, minority affairs ministry, NIA and state agencies to draw up policies and plans and allocate resources for such efforts.

Since the NDA came to power, the MHA has seen changes in the way the 18 divisions are being run. First the human rights division (which looks after communal harmony and national integration) was reshaped and renamed to act as the IC (international cooperation) division handling international treaties as well. This was merged with the public grievances cell. The Internal Security-I and IS-III divisions, dealing with national security issues and central acts like national security act have also been merged now.

However, merger of these divisions and two new important divisions created under the the MHA isn’t the last word on the restructuring of the home ministry.

The new three-member committee formed under the chairmanship of Ajay Shah of the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy tasked to redesign the ministry is expected to give its report in six months. The three-member committee of Ashok Mangotra, a former bureaucrat in MHA and Dineshwar Sharma, former director of Intelligence Bureau and now J&K interlocutor, have a bigger task at hand still. They are expected to propose ways to increase efficiency of organisations associated with the MHA, forensic labs and training centres to focus on security and strategic priorities—something that cannot be ensured by simply renaming, merging and creating new divisions.

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