The criticality of the Gati Shakti National Master Plan and the complexities which it needs to address cannot be overemphasised. India’s economic growth over the next few years is likely to be driven by large-scale coordinated infrastructure initiatives like the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor, Chennai Bangalore Industrial Corridor and the more recent East Coast Economic Corridor. Each of these comprises over hundreds of projects involving development/upgrade of infrastructure including roads, railway linkages, ports, airports, industrial & logistics parks, utilities like power & water, and residential & commercial infrastructure. Multiple agencies at the central, state and local government levels have administrative jurisdiction over these projects. For example, in the road sector, while the NHAI oversees National Highways, the state public works or roads department is responsible for state highways, and the local municipality administers last-mile connectivity to the industrial park or factory gate.
While the number of agencies may be lesser for Railways, Ports and Airports where the Centre has pan-India jurisdiction, most last-mile infrastructure in the form of power & water utilities, city-level amenities, industrial parks, etc. is primarily under the jurisdiction of state and local authorities. If end-to-end supply chain logistics costs are to be brought down, it is imperative for all these agencies to operate in a coordinated manner.
The Gati Shakti Master Plan intends to achieve this by using a geographic information system (GIS) enabled digital platform which would enable government agencies and other stakeholders to upload master plans as well as track and align their own projects with inter-related projects being implemented by other agencies. The platform would provide a consolidated master plan of infrastructure projects being developed across the country, together with their current status. This information can then be used by senior-level officials to identify priority projects as well as bottlenecks and issues to be addressed for their timely and effective implementation.
Given the large number of infrastructure projects under the National Infrastructure Pipeline, it would be important to prioritise a set of initial programmes/initiatives with a list of underlying infrastructure projects for onboarding onto the digital platform. Priority programmes/initiatives can be identified based on a combination of parameters like (a) impact on focus sectors for which PLI schemes & other concessions have been notified, (b) status of financing tie-up for underlying infrastructure projects, (c) willingness and proactiveness of implementing agencies to join the platform.
The other key challenge would be to upload relevant GIS and other relevant master plan related data on the Gati Shakti digital platform. Since many Union Ministries may already have digital master plans & related data for many of their projects, the architecture of the Gati Shakti platform would have to ensure compatibility with the technology being used by the large infrastructure ministries. Necessary arrangements for digitising data for agencies which may not currently have a significant digital footprint would also have to be put in place.
Finally, it would be important to incentivise state and local government agencies to join the digital platform. With financing being one of the major constraints, the Union Government may consider arranging concessional long-term finance for priority Gati Shakti projects at the state and local government levels.
These are but some of the implementation challenges which Gati Shakti is likely to encounter and more are likely to surface during its execution. For Gati Shakti to emerge as a force multiplier for enhancing India’s competitiveness, it is imperative for central, state and local government agencies to work together with the spirit of cooperative federalism to resolve such issues.
The writer is Partner and Leader – Govt & Public Services, Deloitte India