National Technical Research Organisation

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The National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO)[1] is a technical intelligence agency under the National Security Adviser in the Prime Minister's Office, India.[2] It was set up in 2004.[3] It also includes National Institute of Cryptology Research and Development (NICRD), which is first of its kind in Asia.[4]

History[edit]

The National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), originally known as the National Technical Facilities Organisation (NTFO), is a highly specialised technical intelligence gathering agency. While the agency does not affect the working of technical wings of various intelligence agencies, including those of the Indian Armed Forces, it acts as a super-feeder agency for providing technical intelligence to other agencies on internal and external security. The agency is under the control of India's external intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing, although it remains autonomous to some degree. The Group of Ministers (GOM) headed by then Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani had recommended the constitution of the NTFO as a state-of-the-art technical wing of intelligence gathering. Due to security concerns, the recommendation along with such other matters were not made public when the GOM report was published. The organisation does hi-tech surveillance jobs, including satellite monitoring, terrestrial monitoring, internet monitoring, considered vital for the national security apparatus. The NTRO would require over INR700 crore (US$110 million) to procure different hi-tech equipment from specialised agencies around the globe to become fully functional. The officials have identified countries from where such gadgets could be procured but refused to reveal them due to 'security and other implications'. The Government had been working in this direction after the Kargil war in 1999 when the Subrahmanyam committee report pointed out weaknesses in intelligence gathering in the national security set up.[5] Sources said the road-map for constitution of the National Technical Facilities Organisation was prepared by Dr A P J Abdul Kalam in October 2001 when he was the Principal Scientific Adviser. It was subsequently mentioned in the Group of Ministers report on internal security.

Activities[edit]

The agency develops technology capabilities in aviation and remote sensing, data gathering and processing, cyber security, cryptology systems, strategic hardware and software development and strategic monitoring.[6]

It is believed that it deals with imagery and communications intelligence using various platforms, including satellites. It is believed that the NTRO, with ISRO, launched the Technology Experiment Satellite. The Indian Infrastructure Protection Centre, an agency to monitor and assess threats to crucial infrastructure and other vital installations has also been set up under the National Technical Research Organisation. The Technology Experiment Satellite (TES) has a pan chromatic camera for remote sensing. The camera is which is capable of producing images of 1 Metre resolution. 1 metre resolution means the camera is able to distinguish between two objects which are separated at least a metre. The launch of TES made India the second country in the world after the USA that commercially offers images with one metre resolution. It is used for remote sensing of civilian areas, mapping industry and geographical information services.

In September 2013, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan allotted 180 hectares of land to set up the NTRO at Borda village near Bhopal.[7][8]

Controversies[edit]

  • In September 2007, an article appeared in India Today detailing the difficulties faced by the NTRO, specifically how the other spying agencies of the Govt. of India are not allowing the NTRO to fulfill its duties.[9]
  • In April 2010, an Outlook India article (issue dated 3 May 2010), detailed further the issues plagueing the organisation, chiefly the issues of nepotism, inefficiency and corruption amidst the telephone tapping scandal.[11]
  • In June 2011, Indian media broke the news that CAG has found that Israeli UAVs bought by NTRO in 2007 at the cost of INR450 crore (US$73 million) was lying unused as the bundled satellite link purchased was not meant for dedicated military transmission, which would have made it vulnerable to electronic eavesdropping. An internal enquiry was ordered by PMO to find out if there has been a case of financial corruption.[12][13]
  • The Supreme Court of India, has ordered a probe into the allegations of financial irregularities in the procurement of military hardware. The lawsuit was filed by a whistleblower VK Mittal, who resigned as a senior scientist of NTRO and perused initiatives to unmask the officers behind the INR800 crore (US$130 million) scandals.[14] The court also observed that it might have to monitor the investigation, given the nature of allegations which point to systemic corruption in the procurement of surveillance equipment.[15] In later proceedings Supreme court of India clarified its stand on the progress of the investigation[16]
  • In September 2011, an article appeared in The Times of India about how the spy agency had to force an officer 'to quit in 2007 after he used counter-intelligence equipment, including a hidden camera, to bug the bathroom of its security and counter-intelligence director in NTRO headquarters in Delhi. The official was found guilty of placing a hidden, 'pin-hole' camera in the bathroom and linking it to his office computer. The bathroom, located on the second floor of the building, was used by not just the counterintelligence director Anil Malhotra but several other officials, including women staffers.' The incident came to light in September 2007 itself, but was hushed up.[17][18]
  • In August 2011, a whistleblower reported that NTRO has tapped 7,50,000 phones illegally.The matter was hushed up and no investigation was done.[19]
  • May 2013, After a Naxalite attack in Chhattisgarh, NTRO, which conducts UAV operations from Hyderabad's Begumpet airfield started executing extended UAV missions of duration of about 20 hours of flying in Anti-Naxalite operations. Responding to this, anti-corruption experts, who wished to be anonymous, dismissed this claim as yet another example of disinformation by NTRO to cover up its poor quality UAVs, sourced from Israel without proper purchase procedures, whose running costs are a national scandal.[20] India's own UAV indigenous program is badly behind schedule and has to make do with expensive Israeli linear drones which take hours to program in the field because the operating panels are in the Hebrew language.[21][22]
  • In April 2013, the department of electronics and information technology (DeitY) accused NTRO of cracking national informatics center (NIC) network.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ https://ntro.gov.in/
  2. ^ Special Corrospondent (6 May 2007). "Technical research agency planned in State". The Hindu. Retrieved 26 December 2008. 
  3. ^ Sandeep Unnithan (7 September 2007). "Spy versus spy". India Today. Retrieved 26 December 2008. 
  4. ^ Syed Amin (5 May 2007). "Top tech body to come up in Hyderabad". Rediff.com. Retrieved 26 December 2008. 
  5. ^ BHAVNA VIJ-AURORA (31 July 2008). "Dad’s army versus terror Flop tag on tech trackers". The Telegraph. Retrieved 26 December 2008. 
  6. ^ "National tech research body to be housed in Hyderabad". The Hindu Business Line. 8 May 2007. Retrieved 26 December 2008. 
  7. ^ http://ibnlive.in.com/news/state-govt-allots-land-for-ntro-in-borda-village/424811-3-236.html
  8. ^ http://www.indiatvnews.com/news/india/madhya-pradesh-allots-hectares-of-land-to-set-up-ntro-28441.html
  9. ^ "Spy vs Spy". India Today. 2010-09-01. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  10. ^ "CAG to audit NTRO". Indian Express. 2010-02-11. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  11. ^ "Who Monitors the Monitor?". Outlook India. 2010-04-21. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  12. ^ "CAG unearths Rs 450 crore scam". GovernanceNow.com. 2011-06-14. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  13. ^ "CAG nails RAW arm in Rs 450-cr UAV purchase scam - Rediff.com India News". Rediff.com. 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  14. ^ "Court to probe into national research organisation Rs800 crore scam - India - DNA". Dnaindia.com. 17 August 2011. Retrieved 9 September 2012. 
  15. ^ Nikhil Kanekal (2011-08-16). "SC wants explanation on NTRO scandal; issues notices to centre". Livemint. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  16. ^ "No more monitoring of probe into NTRO purchases: SC". timesofindia.com. 2012-11-27. 
  17. ^ "NTRO staffer booted out for loo snoop". The Times of India. 2011-09-21. Retrieved 2011-09-21. 
  18. ^ NTRO's ethical hackers to conquer China[dead link]
  19. ^ "Did NTRO tap phones?". Times of India. 2 Aug 2011. Retrieved 19 July 2012. 
  20. ^ "NTRO to extend UAV mission hours against Naxals". IndiaNewsCo. 17 June 2013. Retrieved 21 August 2012. 
  21. ^ "Yellow UFO menace amuses India's astro boffins". IndiaNewsCo. 23 July 2013. Retrieved 21 August 2012. 
  22. ^ "IAF's Israeli drones of not much use in Naxal-hit Chhattisgarh". IBNLive.com. 27 May 2013. Retrieved 21 August 2012. 
  23. ^ "DeitY Accused National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) Of Cracking National Informatics Center (NIC) Network". Centre Of Excellence For Cyber Security Research And Development In India (CECSRDI). 22 April 2013. Retrieved 1 September 2014. 

External links[edit]