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October 3, 1997


The digital dragnet

In the works is a shiny new weapon for
Indian cops: The Rs 1.25 billion Pol Net.

George Iype in New Delhi

The home ministry is launching Pol Net, an ambitious computer network project for the police forces. It will help record crimes and track down criminals across the country.

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Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral's cabinet has cleared the Rs 1.25 billion proposal to set up Pol Net which the ministry claims will be the most exhaustive information network on criminal data in Asia.

The ministry's National Crime Records Bureau is to be the nodal agency for overseeing Pol Net's construction. The network will link all the state and district police headquarters and the police stations in the country.

"It is a challenging task," NCRB Director L C Amarnathan told Rediff On The Net. He says Pol Net will be a dedicated, satellite-based communications network for voice, data and faxes, to begin with. Later, the NCRB plans to upgrade the network to include video conferencing.

Pol Net will be designed to handle extensive data on crimes like terrorism, firearms misuse, communal riots, murders, kidnapping and even car thefts. The interface is to ensure that all this data is only a few mouse clicks away.

Police personnel will be required to immediately feed into computers every crime they record. The procedure is also expected to reduce tampering of evidences and statements.

The network can be of immense help in investigation. For instance, if a kidnapping takes place in Delhi, within minutes officers will be able to compare similar kidnapping incidents across the country. If any gang has ever used methods particular to the kidnapping at hand, the networks will be able to spit out the relevant details.

There will be a server at every police headquarters and it will be the duty of every police department to keep it update daily. On the Pol Net, the databases of each state will be accessible via the NCRB-manned servers in New Delhi.

Amarnathan assures that the Pol Net will be a secure communications channel, meant exclusively for the police forces. "It will be an online transmission and processing network on crimes and criminals with standard reporting and querying facilities."

He says that after Pol Net is set up, all messages between police stations, district centres and state headquarters will be carried out through the network only. "The obvious benefit of Pol Net will be that there will be less paperwork on the hundreds of thousands of crimes that keep happening in India everyday."

Home ministry sources say Pol Net will considerably reduce the work pressure on India's nearly 905,000 civil police personnel in the country.

The Pol Net plan is part of the police reforms and restructuring that Home Minister Indrajit Gupta has promised.

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