Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday suggested bifurcation of the home ministry, saying subjects not directly related to internal security should be dealt with by a separate ministry.
He also said the by the end of next year, the country will have a National Counter Terrorism Centre, which will exclusively deal with counter-terrorism. The home minister said given the imperatives and the challenges of the times, a division of the current functions of the ministry of home affairs is unavoidable.
"Subjects not directly related to internal security should be dealt with by a separate ministry or should be brought under a separate department in the MHA and dealt with by a minister, more or less independently, without referring every issue to the home minister," he said.
"The home minister should devote the whole of his/her time and energy to matters related to security," he said while delivering the Intelligence Bureau Centenary Endowment Lecture.
Referring to the proposed NCTC, Chidambaram said the responsibility of such an authority will include preventing a terrorist attack, containing a terrorist attack should one take place, and responding to a terrorist attack by inflicting pain upon the perpetrators.
"Such an organisation does not exist today and it has to be created from the scratch. I am told that the United States was able to do it within 36 months of September 11, 2001. India cannot afford to wait for 36 months. India must decide now to go forward and India must succeed in setting up the NCTC by the end of 2010," he said.
Chidambaram said once the NCTC is set up, it must have a broad mandate to deal with all kinds of terrorist violence directed against the country and the people.
"While the nature of the response to different kinds of terror would indeed be different and nuanced, NCTC's mandate should be to respond to violence unleashed by any group, be it an insurgent group in the North East or the Communist Party of India - Maoist in the heartland of India, or any group of religious fanatics anywhere in India acting on their own or in concert with terrorists outside India," he said.
"NCTC would, therefore, have to perform functions relating to intelligence, investigation and operations. But I am clear in my mind that, without 'operations', NCTC and the security architecture that is needed will be incomplete. It is the proposed 'operations' wing of the NCTC that will give an edge now absent to our plans to counter terrorism," he said.
The home minister said the MHA now performs a number of functions that have no direct relation to internal security.
"There are other divisions or desks that deal with centre-state relations, disaster management, census etc. These are undoubtedly important functions and deserve close attention. However, internal security is an equally, if not more, important function that deserves the highest attention," he said.
Chidambaram said 12 to 13 terror attacks, which could have been like Mumbai or Delhi strikes, were neutralised in 2009 by security forces with better intelligence.
"Luck was also in our side and we will have to be lucky every time," he said.
The home minister said the changes that are required to be made in case of a bifurcation are quite basic and simple. They can be done by providing more funds, tightening the administration and working on a time-bound plan.
"Of course, it will also require sound leadership at the political and police levels. However, when we move upwards, serious questions concerning constitutional responsibilities and division of powers will arise," he said.
"Also, difficult questions would have to be posed and answered regarding the current responsibilities of different organisations and questions concerning jurisdiction and turf would also arise. If our goal is just extracting a little more from the business as usual model, then these questions can be brushed aside or provided 'don't rock the-boat' answers. I am afraid that will be self-defeating," he said.
"Sooner than you think, there may be another crisis like the hijack of IC-814 or another catastrophe like the Mumbai terror attacks. Hence, the time to act is now and I would spell the last word with capitals NOW," Chidambaram said.
"I, therefore, propose a bold, thorough and radical restructuring of the security architecture at the national level," he added.
Chidambaram also expressed his displeasure over the lack of any unified command to give directions to different security-related organisations which report to different wings of the government.