Improving the framework is a basic catalyst for realizing $20 trillion in savings by 2040. Last year, a step in this direction was taken by signaling the National Master Plan (NMP) PM Gati Shakti in October 2021. The INR 100 lakh crore super arrangement was made with a digital platform to unite different government ministries and departments for coordinated organization and execution of tasks. To understand the concept and the idea behind it, it was only deemed necessary to contact Dr. Surendra Ahirwar, Joint Secretary-Logistics Division, DPIIT, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Govt. from India. Dr. Ahirwar, in a frank interaction, not only helped us understand the current flow of possibilities, but also shared his perspective on how Prime Minister Gati Shakti is establishing cooperative federalism in national democracy, and well Moreover.
Q. How can Prime Minister Gati Shakti NMP reduce the high logistics costs borne by many people in this country?
PM Gati Shakti is an approach or mechanism for the integrated development of logistics infrastructure and the achievement of continuity in the logistics sector across different modes of transport. This continuity will be brought by the streamlining of the processes as well as by the development of the infrastructure, including the interconnection infra called intermodal infrastructure, and also by having proportionate processes to achieve this intermodality without effort.
A significant portion of logistics costs can be attributed to changing the mode of transport, whether you are switching from road to rail, or from rail to ship, or from ship to road and back to rail – this involves multiple handling of goods , which not only involves a handling cost but also involves losses at the handling stations. So it also becomes an additional cost for logistics. All these things are going to be addressed by PM Gati Shakti which is the transformative approach for the development of the logistics sector.
In addition, we are looking for capacity building of infrastructure (all modes of transport) and streamlining of processes (digitization, development of human resources). Also, when there is increased capacity, you can achieve higher speed with less transit time and provide better services. Therefore, it will not only increase efficiency, but also save logistics costs.
Q. How is Prime Minister Gati Shakti creating a culture of low-cost, time-limited project implementation?
Creating a culture of low-cost, time-bound project implementation is the focus area of PM Gati Shakti NMP, which aims to enable a data-driven decision support system, which which is possible thanks to a digital platform based on GIS that has been developed.
It has mapped all details of existing infrastructure assets and geographic/demographic features in most locations, above or below ground. It also maps all potential and planned projects by different ministers and their departments including state governments and UTs. This will help planners to plan any infrastructure in an integrated way.
Prime Minister Gati Shakti also has an institutional arrangement. Apart from the empowered secretary group, it also has a network planning group. It is a group of individuals who plan the heads of different infrastructure departments of the Government of India. These people discuss every infrastructure project proposal worth more than INR 500 Cr. They discuss and review each project from the perspective of PM Gati Shakti principles.
Since this planning is extremely data-driven along the alignment of networks – be it railways, roads, shipping, ports, etc. – it makes the whole exercise very participative and collaborative. This makes the plans very rational, pragmatic and achievable, helping to reduce the risk of time overruns and cost overruns.
It also anticipates the area, type and cost of the land to be acquired, as well as the risk it entails. This advanced assessment done at the planning stage also helps planners decide on reasonable goals for the project and speeds up project implementation.
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Q. How can PMN Gati Shakti NMP help boost agricultural productivity and reduce heavy burdens on farmers?
The area of intervention of PM Gati Shakti in general, and PM Gati Shakti NMP in particular, mainly concerns three sectors – Industry, Trade and Agro. While all these sectors require a specific infrastructure that can be qualified as “terminal infrastructure” (terminals, hubs, storage areas, etc.), they also use a common infrastructure.
We have this approach and this concern in mind to help in both directions. We want to contribute to the creation of capacities, efficiencies and the common infrastructure required for all sectors, including passenger transport. In addition, we have also identified particular areas of interest for agriculture, mining and manufacturing.
So, in addition to the general plans, there are also sectoral plans which will be specified in the national logistics policy, which we are awaiting. It helps and focuses on the agricultural sector. Details may be released later after its rollout.
Q. PM Gati Shakti’s premise has always been a “transformative approach”. Does this mean that there could be even more developments in the platform to come in the years to come?
Any tool created to cause the transformation can only continue to cause the transformation if it transforms itself. It is therefore so natural that the system is continually evolving and transforming. The one whose transformer and the one who is adaptive just survive. Therefore, this platform will survive. It is planned from this transformation alone and therefore results in the desired transformation of the infrastructure or the economy in general.
Q. How does PM Gati Shakti break down departmental silos and synchronize planning and implementation?
I don’t want to use the word “silos”. That the departments are called departments, they are specialized and very respectable departments.
While specialization is the desired thing in any organization, greater specialization is the evolution of that organization. We start from the protozoan state and we gradually grow in terms of specialization, we evolve. So, in any government system in the world, the best would be one that emphasizes and focuses on specialization, but what happens gradually over time, super specialization in various departments and further specialization takes place.
As you specialize, you hone your focus. As we are already a very evolved government, we have reached a stage where we have super-specialized departments which are there to do in their fields, but there is a need to connect them. And this need can only be satisfied when there is communication between these specialized services or ministries.
So, Prime Minister Gati Shakti intends to introduce this transparent communication, in fact we go beyond communication and try to bring collaboration between these ministries, without affecting their autonomy. So it’s not about breaking down the silos, but about bringing in specialized departments to collaborate and communicate intensively and produce the best integrated product in terms of infrastructure, with all the networks, interconnection paths and interconnected processes ultimately leading us to process transparency.
Q. How does Prime Minister Gati Shakti establish cooperative federalism in India’s democratic system?
PM Gati Shakti is an intensified collaboration, cooperation and communication between different levels and organizations that are committed to doing their best in their field without affecting their autonomy.
Cooperative federalism, as we understand it, is the political system where we also have states – which is a reality – and we must respect their autonomy. So, we brought this digital platform and this sort of institutional framework that was created without any mandatory element or direction being given to the states. States have been persuaded to do such a thing which can bring great benefits.
So based on the merit of the idea, these states have embraced the platform very well. At present, all states are on board with PM Gati Shakti NMP without exception, as well as all UTs, ministries, departments that deal with infrastructure development and economic ministries that are consumers of these services – all are on board. It is not a dictated system, it is simply an information-based system that benefits everyone, the entire state, and the citizens of the state and nationwide.
This system cannot work without the necessary data also being submitted by the state governments, they have all voluntarily agreed to complete the data, so the platform is very enriched. It must be one of the largest repositories of data in the country today on infrastructure and other plans and information. This data will be used for project governance or planning or implementation of the project as such.
Q. In what ways can the national master plan be used to make sound decisions about the social sector?
The National Master Plan is meant to enable integrated infrastructure development through data-based decision-making that drives integrated planning. But cannot ignore the positive effects that flow from it. Since NMP maps all infrastructure developments above and below ground, it is going to help all sectors, be it banking, telecommunications, education, panchayats, etc.
Since it has a lot of demographic data, it could have spin-offs in terms of planning social protection schemes and targeting those schemes in a much more effective and efficient way. It is therefore a huge treasure trove of data that can be put to good use.
And this data is very secure, because it includes all kinds of information that can be strategically sensitive. Thus, it is stored on a proprietary hardware server and not in the cloud. And, at present, access is not given to the general public, but is only used by government departments and private sectors. We plan to give full access to planners, consultants and developers who are involved in creating the infrastructure, after being authorized by the respective ministries and taking due care of data security.