“Gati Shakti” envisions a digital platform that will bring sixteen ministries together for integrated planning and coordinated implementation of infrastructure connectivity projects for industrial clusters and economic nodes. Creating a common platform for ministries whose work often overlaps makes way for faster, seamless and meticulous construction of infrastructure.
In 2021, on the morning of the 75th Independence day, the Prime Minister announced a colossal infrastructure project worth Rs 100 lakh-crore calling it ‘PM Gati Shakti-National Master Plan for Multi-Modal Connectivity’. The plan was launched with the aim of bolstering economic growth and development pulled by the seven engines of infrastructure: roads, railways, airports, ports, mass transport, waterways, and logistics.
In the 2022 budget, the Finance Minister announced the blueprint of the Amrit Kal, which included PM’s Development Initiative for North East (PM-DevINE), an expansion of the road network by 25,000 kms, the construction of 4 multi-modal logistics parks, 100 railway cargo terminals and the allotment of 100 lakh interest-free loans to the states for Gati Shakti related capital expenditure (capex). The government is banking on large capital expenditure to counter the global headwinds of the economic downturn. The 35% increase in capex this financial year is guided by the National Master Plan for Multi-Modal Connectivity by Gati and Shakti. The capital expenditure, coupled with the multiplier effect, would ‘crowd-in’ private investment, taking us out of the cyclical downturn.
Furthermore, in the recently concluded monsoon session, the parliament passed a bill creating a multi-disciplinary ‘Gati Shakti Vishwavidyalaya’ to produce a talented, skilled, and dedicated cadre that will contribute to the development of India’s transport sector.
Infrastructure is the bedrock of a modern economy. It is a tangible parameter to measure the degree of development. Infrastructure could be simply defined as the services or facilities a country creates to enhance the quality of life of its citizens. A packed buzzword which encompasses housing, transport, energy, and manufacturing industries, along with communication technologies.
An efficient infrastructure increases investments, harbours innovations, and uplifts many from poverty. The creation of jobs and increased demand for construction materials is the immediate direct result, but in the long run it insures higher sustainability of employment and unimpeded economic growth. S&P Global Ratings highlights a direct correlation between infrastructure spending and economic benefits by postulating that spending of 1% of GDP results in an increment of GDP by 2%. This is also corroborated in studies by the Reserve Bank of India and the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, which estimate at least 2.5–3.5 times of a multiplier effect.
India, after 75 years of independence, is a 3 trillion dollar economy and one of the fastest growing. It is the 5th largest economy in the world, but in the World Competitiveness Ranking 2022 it was ranked 37th and performed deplorably in the infrastructural vertical, ranking 49th. This brings forth the lack of basic infrastructural facilities. It is estimated that inadequate infrastructure pulls down the annual GDP growth by 1-2%. High growth in the economy in recent years has enlarged this deficit as well as the need to fill it.
Post Independence, India has strived to build and rebuild herself. The 1991 economic reforms brought free markets to India, but the missing complementary social infrastructure resulted in the economy turning service-heavy. The leap-frogging of the manufacturing and industrial sectors has cost us by breeding economic inequality and regional imbalance. This has been termed “jobless growth” by economists.
The vast hinterlands capable of industrialisation are marked by a shortfall of connectivity, a paucity or absence of utilities and a missing regulatory environment that harbours competitiveness. The structural challenges which the Gati Shakti plan directly confronts are–
- Disjointed Planning: In a country as vast as India, it is an arduous task to foresee the challenges of tomorrow. But with the advent of the information age, it is baffling that we still find roads laid before sewage systems were put in. Gati Shakti comes in to counter such incidents of disconnection and distance between the numerous agencies, saving funds and expediting the construction.
- Under-Utilisation: A project is never standalone. It was observed that in some instances, a completed project was not fully utilised due to a lack of coordination amongst the different implementing authorities and ill-conceived planning. Gati Shakti seeks to align the timelines of projects in order to minimise wastage of resources.
- Multifarious Clearances and Approvals: A large scale project involves various verticals, from land acquisition, forest and environmental clearances, to shifting of utilities(water and power lines). Such endeavours demand clear coordination amongst the ministries and departments. The plan aims to streamline the clearance procedure by clearly laying out standards and chains of command.
The masterplan, taking cognizance of these obstacles, charts out a fitting path.
Adopting a cross-sectoral and cross-domain approach to governance, the Gati Shakti plan follows a six-pronged approach to achieve its goals.
- Comprehensiveness: As is evidenced by the number of ministries under the plan, the plan seeks to integrate every possible division and get them together on a single platform.
- Prioritisation: Most industrial development follows a natural order, which hitherto was missing in the creation of India’s infrastructure. A clear and transparent information portal which brings all the variables to the forefront would make decisions logical and aligned to progress.
- Optimisation: Uprooting structural hindrances requires a fast-track decision-making procedure. Gati Shakti undertakes the challenge of optimising supply chains and assisting various ministries to collaborate in order to reduce costs and time.
- Synchronisation: India has no dearth of agencies working in an area. Providing visibility and ensuring coordination among them will cause a reduction in delays, clashes and unsystematic development.
- Analysis: For infrastructural projects a multitude of data is needed for effective planning. The Plan facillitates a one-stop platform which provides GIS-related data, spatial trends, and analytical tools to plan and deliver on goals.
- Dynamic: This pillar acknowledges the fast-paced, ever-changing world we inhabit by providing room for addition, revision, and review. Only through systemic updation of the plan can we hope to reap its true benefits.
The Digital Master Planning tool is the hub where all the ministries will update their data periodically for planning, review, and monitoring. The tool was developed by BISAG-N (Bhaskaracharya National Institute for Space Applications and Geoinformatics) and has been prepared on the dynamic Geographic Information System (GIS) platform.
The PM, when launching the plan, said, “With the whole-of-government approach, the collective power of the government is being channelled into fulfilling the schemes.” The institutional framework is the manifestation of this vision.
For the implementation of Gati Shakti, a 3-tier institutional framework has been created under the logistics division of the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade.
- Empowered Group of Secretaries (EGoS): The EGoS is to be headed by the cabinet secretary and have other secretaries as members. The committee is responsible for monitoring and approving any changes to the Master Plan.
- Network Planning Group (NPG): The group is responsible for unified planning and integration of the proposals. It will guide the heads of all network planning departments responsible for economic zones, connectivity, and infrastructural development. The Group facilitates as a dialogue and coordination platform, horizontally harmonising planning and execution
- Technical Support Unit (TSU): Primarily tasked with providing technical assistance to the planning group. The TSU will consist of 14 subject experts across 4 dimensions, namely integration, optimisation, standardisation, and digitisation.
Breaking the silos of development will help augment the energy and efforts put into projects which earlier suffered from contestation. The groups tasked with envisaging, reviewing, and recommending projects would ideally lead to fewer disruptions and build an efficient infrastructure landscape in the country.
The challenges of New India are multifold, and the Gati Shakti plan comes at a critical juncture when the Indian population is young, industries are developing, and disruptive technologies are becoming mainstream. In the backdrop of changing demographics and the environment, convergent infrastructure development in a multitude of facilities is imperative. The raison d’être for improvement and augmentation of infrastructure delivery across the spectrum, from the provision of housing, to water and sanitation, to trade and commerce, and to digital and transportation needs, is compelling. A multi-sectoral approach to infrastructure development acknowledges the fluidity of physical infrastructure in today’s interconnected world.
As infrastructure acts as an enabler for growth, for India to become a 5 trillion dollar economy, creating and upgrading existing infrastructure acts as a catalyst.
The newly unveiled National Logistics Policy acts as the perfect wingman to the National Master Plan-Gati Shakti, for making India realise her true potential as a world leader in infrastructure and logistics. A progressive easing of the business environment coupled with economic reforms will boost competitiveness and productivity. The Gati Shakti lays the foundation of synchronous decision-making for creating a world-class, seamless multi-modal transport network, on the back of which India is poised to become a developed nation.
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About the Author
Kushagra Khatri, Research Intern, IMPRI