Business Standard

Projects worth Rs 12 trn planned under Gati Shakti initiative: Piyush Goyal

Gati Shakti also ensures that if an optical fibre cable or water pipeline has to be laid,it is done in advance, so that the road is not dug up repeatedly

Piyush Goyal

A K Bhattacharya
Nearly two years since it was announced, infrastructure projects worth Rs 12 trillion have been planned under the Prime Minister’s Gati Shakti initiative, Piyush Goyal, minister for Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, and Textiles, said during a fireside chat with AK Bhattacharya at the Business Standard Gati-Shakti Connect event in New Delhi on Monday. He also spoke of how the initiative has brought cooperative federalism to the fore and the role the private sector can play, with safeguards in place. Edited excerpts:

On the broad vision that underlines Gati Shakti

The concept of Gati Shakti was first articulated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi nearly 15 years ago, when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. The Prime Minister's vision was that a large country the size of India, with scarce resources at its command, should get the highest bang for every buck of the public money spent.

The Prime Minister’s idea was to map all the available resources, data points of the country's existing topography, infrastructure and utilities in order to be able to plan and implement projects in a smarter way, and ensure that cost and time overruns are prevented. This would bring down the cost of projects, build efficiency and effectively serve the needs of the people of India.
Through the National Master Plan, different data layers from the central and state governments’ databases interact with one another through application programming interfaces (APIs). These encompass 1,300-plus layers of data.

On how the Gati Shakti National Master Plan is helping

The entire Delhi-Mumbai expressway can be planned in two weeks flat through this technology, and the project can be implemented in four or five years.

If we want to build an expressway from Delhi to Mumbai, now we don't have to do a survey on the ground, which would have otherwise taken probably five years – going area to area, land parcel to land parcel, calculating angles, curves, etc. We can now design this on the computer and put it on the Gati Shakti portal to assess the feasibility.

On the Gati Shakti portal, this plan will then traverse the distance through the maps. These 1,300-plus data layers will keep feeding into the survey and alert us in case, say, the route touches a wildlife sanctuary. This way we can amend it or take a relook at the alignment. In case it touches a river, the data on Gati Shakti can tell us the shortest distance between its two banks, so that we can do some realignment and eventually build the shortest bridge on that stretch. All of this saves time and money.

On the experience prior to Gati Shakti

Traditionally, say, a railway project would be announced during the Budget. In subsequent Budgets, sometimes surveys on that project would be announced. But nothing would move on the ground until, say, it was election time, state or national. Then the government would go into an overdrive on that project, only to realise the hurdles in the way of execution – such as a 20-storey building standing on the rail route. Then they would have to go back to the drawing board all over again.

On the extent to which project costs have come down

I don’t have the figures off the cuff, but I would say this: It’s elementary, my dear Watson.
If I am planning to assess the cost of a project today, and if I implement it with overruns of 20 years, then I have no way of knowing what I’m finally going to spend. If the whole project planning is done efficiently and I know from start to finish that it's a five-year project, I can assess the budget I will need every year. All the loose ends are tied and the most cost-effective solution is planned on Day One. This minimises cost and disturbance.

I would like to specify the benefits, but right now it will be at more of a philosophical level because we launched Gati Shakti only two years ago.

What I can say is that in two years, Rs 12 trillion worth of projects have been planned through Gati Shakti. All the seven PM Mitra Parks, which we approved, went through a rigorous Gati Shakti process before they were identified and planned.

On breaking ministerial silos at the Centre and establishing a connection with the states

I must place on record our deep appreciation of the cooperation we have got from the entire ecosystem. Every state and Union Territory has signed onto PM Gati Shakti. We have had workshops on it and the Prime Minister has himself sat through chief secretaries’ conferences where PM Gati Shakti has been presented to all the states.

The good part is all the states that have signed onto it are using PM Gati Shakti. They have started developing layers of data to be uploaded on the portal. Some states may be slightly slower, while others are more aggressive. Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh have been aggressive in utilising Gati Shakti. But I don’t want to differentiate between the states, be it West Bengal, Tamil Nadu or Kerala.

All states and UTs, irrespective of political affiliations, are on board. All are using it and benefiting from it. I would also like to acknowledge the role of all the officials in public sector undertakings, and at the Centre and states.

On the role of the private sector

First of all, Gati Shakti is the collective effort of the Centre and the states. This is just one example of many where we have been able to truly bring cooperative federalism to the fore. Of course, there are a few states that will always have the stubborn resistance to all that is good, sometimes for political reasons, at times for vested interest.

Coming to the private sector. A lot of the data is sensitive. Right now, we are using it and testing it on all government projects. By and large, test results are so fabulous that at some stage, we will have to look at segregating the secret or the sensitive data so that the private sector can enjoy the fruits of the rest of the data.

For the sensitive data, perhaps the government can assist them in using it in a sanitised atmosphere, without opening it up to the public or giving it to them in a laptop or on a pen drive. So yes, it’s on our agenda, but timelines have to be worked out.

By and large, these first two years were when we wanted to be very sure. But given the great results, the demand from the private sector is overwhelming.

On financing Gati Shakti

It’s a whole-of-government approach. Right now, finances are as much an integral part of the Gati Shakti planning process as a roadway or a highway project is.

Gati Shakti helps give better cost estimates since we won’t have unforeseen circumstances arising along the way. So the finance (ministry) can plan its resources better. You won't be stuck for finance halfway through the project. As you finalise a project and its timeline, the finance (ministry) can start planning for five years of budgeting in advance.

The last two Union Budgets gave additional funding for projects of last-mile nature or for critical projects that can really help the economy grow faster. To finance such projects, they gave Rs 75,000 crore to the state governments as a special outlay.

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First Published: Aug 31 2023 | 1:38 AM IST

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