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Monday, Oct 03, 2022

Success of Gati Shakti digital platform will depend on breaking bureaucratic silos, ensuring states’ participation

By bringing together 16 ministries to help remove the hurdles in project implementation, the Gati Shakti digital platform could provide an effective mechanism for closely monitoring the public sector infrastructure projects.

As public sector projects in India are marred by inordinate delays and cost overruns, there is a need to coordinate the planning and execution of infrastructure connectivity programmes across the country and speed up implementation in order to bring down logistics costs.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched PM Gati Shakti, a National Master Plan for multi-modal connectivity. The scope of the government’s latest initiative is expansive, the targets ambitious. It will integrate road, railway, airport and multi-modal connectivity projects across the country, incorporating a range of existing infrastructure projects of the government such as Bharatmala, Sagarmala, inland waterways, dry/land ports, and UDAN. It promises to greatly enhance the national highway as well as the electricity transmission networks, increasing the cargo handling by railways and the cargo capacity at ports, and also setting up mega food parks, defence corridors, and electronics manufacturing clusters. Considering the multiplier effects, timely implementation of such infrastructure projects, especially at the current juncture, could provide a notable boost to the economy.

The intent behind the initiative is straightforward. As public sector projects in India are marred by inordinate delays and cost overruns, there is a need to coordinate the planning and execution of infrastructure connectivity programmes across the country and speed up implementation in order to bring down logistics costs. This could lower the inefficiencies in supply chains in India. A recent report by CII and Arthur D Little had estimated the logistics costs in supply chains in India at 14 per cent of GDP. In comparison, the report had pointed out that such costs amounted to only 8-10 per cent of the GDP in the US and Europe and 9 per cent in China. In the case of South Asian countries like Vietnam and Malaysia, though the cost structures are similar to those existing in India, they fare better on the World Bank’s logistics performance index. While India scores 3.18 on the index, Vietnam and Malaysia score higher at 3.27 and 3.22 respectively. Logistical inefficiencies not only cause delays, but also add to manufacturing costs and lower the competitiveness of Indian exports.

Considering not only the multiplicity of approvals required from varied departments, but also the typical inter-ministerial delays in the entire process, the need for a coordinated approach to streamline the process and minimise the bottlenecks cannot be emphasised enough. By bringing together 16 ministries to help remove the hurdles in project implementation, the Gati Shakti digital platform could provide an effective mechanism for closely monitoring the public sector infrastructure projects. This technology-led integrated approach could help align all stakeholders, ease the problems with attaining clearances, and bring about greater coordinated action across government departments. But there are concerns. For one, the effectiveness of a platform in ensuring better coordination among ministries is debatable — breaking down bureaucratic silos may prove to be harder than expected. Then, critical to the success of some of these infrastructure projects will be the participation of state governments. The Centre will need to devise political interventions and ways to coax and incentivise state government participation and cooperation.

This column first appeared in the print edition on October 15, 2021 under the title ‘Speeding up’.

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First published on: 15-10-2021 at 03:15:24 am
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