Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday launched the “PM GatiShakti — National Master Plan” for infrastructure development aimed at boosting multimodal connectivity and driving down logistics costs.
PM GatiShakti is a digital platform that connects 16 ministries — including Roads and Highways, Railways, Shipping, Petroleum and Gas, Power, Telecom, Shipping, and Aviation — with a view to ensuring holistic planning and execution of infrastructure projects.
The portal will offer 200 layers of geospatial data, including on existing infrastructure such as roads, highways, railways, and toll plazas, as well as geographic information about forests, rivers and district boundaries to aid in planning and obtaining clearances.
The portal will also allow various government departments to track, in real time and at one centralised place, the progress of various projects, especially those with multi-sectoral and multi-regional impact. The objective is to ensure that “each and every department now have visibility of each other’s activities providing critical data while planning and execution of projects in a comprehensive manner. Through this, different departments will be able to prioritise their projects through cross–sectoral interactions”.
The Prime Minister, while launching the project, said examples of poor infrastructure planning included newly-built roads being dug up by the water department to lay pipes. The GatiShakti platform aims to prevent such situations by addressing the issue of government departments working in silos.
The government expects the platform to enable various government departments to synchronise their efforts into a multi-modal network. It will also offer satellite imagery for monitoring of projects. It is also expected to help state governments give commitments to investors regarding timeframes for the creation of infrastructure.
Studies estimate that logistics costs in India are about 13-14% of GDP as against about 7-8% of GDP in developed economies. High logistics costs impact cost structures within the economy, and also make it more expensive for exporters to ship merchandise to buyers.
By incorporating infrastructure schemes under various ministries and state governments, including the Bharatmala and inland waterways schemes, and economic zones such as textile and pharmaceutical clusters and electronics parks, the GatiShakti platform aims to boosting last-mile connectivity and bringing down logistics costs with integrated planning and reducing implementation overlaps.
Currently, a number of economic zones and industrial parks are not able to reach their full productive potential due to inefficient multi-modal connectivity.
The National Master Plan has set targets for all infrastructure ministries. India is targeting an increase in the total cargo handled at Indian ports to 1,759 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) by 2024-25, up from 1,282 MTPA in 2020 — as well as increasing cargo movement on national waterways to 95 million tonnes from about 74 million tonnes in the same period.
The PM said the government was aiming at adding over 200 airports, helipads, and water aerodromes over the next 4-5 years beside nearly doubling the existing natural gas pipeline network, which is about 19,000 km.
A project monitoring group under the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) will monitor the progress of key projects in real time, and report any inter-ministerial issues to an empowered group of ministers, who will then aim to resolve these.
Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said the central government had received enquiries from almost all BJP- and NDA-ruled states about the GatiShakti portal. Goyal said the portal would help states avoid both cost and time overruns, and allow them to provide the benefit of valuable infrastructure to their residents sooner.
Currently, any inter-ministerial issues that arise relating to a project are addressed in regular meetings of infrastructure-related ministries. These issues are raised in advance, and then taken up.
Goyal said that through the PM PRAGATI (Pro-Active Governance And Timely Implementation) portal, many issues were resolved even prior to such meetings. He said the GatiShakti portal would help reduce the human intervention required as ministries will be in constant touch, and projects will be reviewed by the project monitoring group in real time.
Citing the example of a tunnel, Goyal said that ordinarily, we may see one tunnel being made for roads and another for railways; however such a platform would allow the ministries to coordinate, and create one large tunnel which may serve both purposes, saving the taxpayer thousands of crores.
T P Singh, director of the Bhaskaracharya Institute for Space Applications and Geoinformatics (BISAG-N), which has built the portal, cited the example of a project to build a railway line, for which the path was changed slightly following a review of the data available on the portal — obviating the need for a forest clearance that may have been required otherwise.
The portal will also highlight all the clearances any new project would need, based on its location — and allow stakeholders to apply for these clearances from the relevant authority directly on the portal.
Goyal said if a railway line is being built, the Ministry of Road Transport may immediately give clearance for an overpass, and the Power Ministry can begin projects to ensure that trains can immediately have access to power on completion of the tracks.