On the eve of 75th Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced from the Red Fort that the government will launch ‘PM Gati Shakti Master Plan’, an INR 100 lakh-crore project for building ‘holistic infrastructure’ in India. 

The idea behind 'Gati Shakti' scheme is that the government is aiming to create a digital platform promising the “integrated planning and coordinated execution” by sixteen ministries. Each ministry and government department will be able to access information about the ongoing and upcoming projects us for a balanced and synchronised approach. It will bring together under one ambit the government departments like railways, roads and highways and many more. In this era of Geo-Satellite imagery, Big Data, land and logistics plans would be realised in an efficient manner on the ground. 

For instance- it has been seen on multiple occasions that when a road is constructed, other agencies dig up the constructed road again for other activities like laying down the underground telephone lines, gas pipeline etc. Thus, this master plan aims to resolve the infrastructural issues, India has been suffering from many decades. The idea is to reduce the lack of coordination between various departments to reduce the inconvenience caused to the common man in the country. 

The growing Indian population, urbanisation and pace of development determines the needs of a country, as the preferences for residents, modes of transport and industries.  Post World War II Europe had to undergo infrastructural recreation, just the way USA had to sign the ‘New Deal’ to come back into shape post Great Depression. The world has witnessed that, between 1960-1990, South Korea started growing at an average rate of 10 per cent per annum, once they invested into infrastructural development. China, too is a great example that set a similar pace in 1980-2010, ushering socio-economic transformation and became the manufacturing hub of the world.

India is now taking a bold step in the direction of raising its ‘competitive index’, setting apart a network of multi-modal transport system for commuters as well as logistics, largely boosting exports of goods and domestic manufacturing.  The government is trying to simplify time-taking application, approval processes and the multiplicity of regulatory norms through this scheme. The Gati-Shakti programme is structured to prioritise all–mega infrastructure and connectivity targets by 2024-2025. In economics parlance, this would have multiplier effects in the economy by saving public revenue and taxes. The immediate effect would be seen through increased demand for construction materials, demand for labour and second order effects by better reach and connectivity. 

Studies by the Reserve Bank of India and the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy have estimated at least 2.5-3.5 times of a multiplier effect. This implies that public investment if timed and targeted right, can actually ‘crowd-in’ private investment, rather than ‘crowd-out’. To realise these benefits, raising our capital expenditure as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will be crucial, at both the central and state level. 

In the last seven years, under PM Modi, the union government has ensured an unprecedented focus on infrastructure through holistic outlook. Now with Gati Shakti, this umbrella scheme is going to undertake various infrastructural projects under distinct ministries like Bharatmala, Sagarmala, inland waterways, land ports, UDAN etc. It is also taking into consideration the various ‘Economic Zones’ upkeep like textile clusters, industrial corridors, fishing cluster, electronic parks, defence corridors and agricultural zones for improving connectivity and making Indian business more competitive and bringing down the cost of logistics by a high degree. 

The Government of India is planning to leverage technology extensively, including spatial planning tools with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), namely, BiSAG- N (Bhaskaracharya National Institute for Space Applications and Geoinformatics). It has also been confirmed by Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport and Highways of India, that, “This scheme will provide framework for National Infrastructure Pipeline plan.”

The PM Gati Shakti Master Plan is based on six pillars:

1)    Comprehensiveness- Gati Shakti programme marks a paradigm shift in decision making to break the silos of departmentalism. In the proposed plan, all the existing and proposed economic zones have been mapped along with the multimodal connectivity infrastructure in a single digital platform. The National Master Plan will employ modern technology and the latest IT tools for coordinated planning of infrastructure. A GIS-based Enterprise Resource Planning system with 200+ layers for evidence-based decision-making is one such example.

2)    Prioritization- There would be no more fragmented nature of decision making, each department would work with joint efforts for creating the desired industrial network.  If a rail network has been laid to connect a district to a city, it is also the responsibility of the allied departments to ensure last mile connectivity. The departments that have to lead the project first will be given prioritization, for example- laying the underground gas pipeline is necessary before finalising the road.

3)    Optimisation- The required facilities should be ensured before beginning the development of a project. For example- a fertilizer plant has been constructed but a gas pipeline is inaccessible leading to the plant being unable to reach its production potential. Thus, the fund raised for the project would not yield any result for the common man. Having an efficient logistics network and economies of scale in manufacturing are key conditions. Industrial parks and logistics parks need to grow in size to be globally competitive. The National Industrial Corridor Development Corporation (NICDC), formerly DMIDC will work in close coordination with state governments to develop these industrial corridors. State governments must take the lead in identifying parcels of land for industrialisation in consonance with the national plan to reap the maximum benefits of jobs and growth.

4)    Synchronisation- Achieving an efficient, seamless multi-modal transport network is no easy task. It requires independent government departments to work in close coordination and collaboration, guided by an overarching master plan. Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Ports, Shipping, Waterways and Ayush, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Power, New and Renewable Energy, Ministry of Railways, Communications, Electronics and Information Technology, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas and Housing & Urban Affairs are going to work in synchronicity.

5)    Analytical – India has witnessed completion of many infrastructural projects from 2014 that have been fast-tracked by many government departments. This has happened only because of digital platforms for accessing all documents on an online basis. For example- The Railways has started a ‘Common Drawing Approval System’ on an online platform, so all the approvals can be accessed on one portal. This initiative take by the Indian Railways has given great results by ensuring the approvals take not more than 90 days, where it was taking more than 180 days. Even for environmental clearances, online portals have been created, which usually would have taken more than 2 years, but can now be completed in a matter of few weeks or months.

6)    Dynamic- The Gati Shakti scheme will ensure that a basic commonality is maintained for similar projects even if the end goal is to be achieved by inter-departmental coordination. For instance- Ministry of Road and Transport has already started acquiring the ‘Utility Corridors’ alongside the new national highways and expressways. So as to ensure that optic fibre cable, telephone and power cables can be installed while the expressways are being constructed. Additionally, digitisation will play a big role in ensuring timely clearances and flagging potential issues, as well as in project monitoring. 

According to Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, the Gati Shakti plan will help raise India’s global profile, strengthen our local manufacturers, and let passengers swiftly move from one place to another, become a push factor for our exports as well. It also raises possibilities of new future economic zones.

This article has been co-authored by Soumya Gupta and Kanika Verma. 

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