On Gati Shakti Mission: Plugging the infra gaps

Context: Ever since it was announced by the prime minister in October 2021, the Gati Shakti mission has been billed as one of the most transformational projects in the country.

Successfully planning and executing large scale infrastructure projects in India have always been a nightmare, leading to significant cost and time overruns.

Gati Shakti is a much-needed step in offering an integrated solution, say its advocates.

However, not everyone believes the Gati Shakti mission is a radical solution. The author of this article sheds light on this particular aspect.

What is Gati Shakti?

Gati Shakti uses geospatial technology, based on data sourced from different ministries and agencies, to map the entire terrain—and provide a “one view” to the planning and execution agencies.

It also offers an opportunity to bridge the coordination gap between ministries and plug bottlenecks.

What do the critics of the Gati Shakti Mission say?

As per them,

the Big Data project might at best make a peripheral contribution to the challenges of infrastructure development.

Bureaucracy will hold back data sharing —and evade the attempt to build transparency and break silos.

Also, the portal has generated considerable interest among the private sector, particularly in the logistics and infrastructure space. But it remains to be seen whether the private sector will step up and be inspired to participate in infrastructure projects.

What are some potential benefits of the mission?

The benefits are pretty obvious.

Increased efficiency: Instead of taking six months just to decide on the route for a high speed expressway, the Gati Shakti project will allow for a more integrated solution in a matter of weeks. That way, the transportation of goods can be speeded up, leading to more efficiency and productivity in the real economy.

For example: The Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) on the western line, stretching from the JNPT port in Mumbai to Dadri in UP, is a prime example.

Concor, the listed entity owned by the Railways, built assets along this corridor. But much of it is unutilised becau­se there are no proper transportation linkages with the regional economic hubs like Kandla, denting Concor’s return on equity.

The Gati Shakti portal might now offer the dedicated freight corridor project some alternative routes to bypass wildlife corridors or mining hubs in the eastern stretch, instead of the shortest route picked earlier.

Fixing the lack of interconnections: There are multiple agencies and ministries involved in the planning process, each with their own processes and ways of working. So, for instance, a new port is often built without adequate focus on rail or road linkages.

Gati Shakti attempts to fix this lack of interconnections by bringing all the different ministries on a co­mmon platform, identifying these gaps and fixing accountability for each ministry for delivery and outcomes.

Also, the cabinet secretary himself chairs the meeting of the empowered group of secretaries from the key ministries to review the progress. The Prime Minister’s office (PMO) also has visibility to the progress.

What are the challenges that need to be addressed?

Gati Shakti poses an enormous challenge to the government’s existing ways of working — and its ability to use data for decision-making.

Moreover, it remains to be seen whether ministries can be persuaded to upload information on all these critical projects, especially the ones that are lagging behind, on the platform.

Source: This post is based on the article “Plugging the infra gaps” published in the Business Standard on 25th Apr 22.

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