How Gati Shakti will be a game changer for India’s growth and prosperity

It is a digital platform that would bring together 16 ministries of the Union government, including railways and roadways, ‘for integrated planning and coordinated implementation of infrastructure connectivity projects’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launches the Rs 100 lakh crore Gati Shakti national master plan to facilitate multi-modal connectivity. PTI

The Gati Shakti National Master Plan is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to bring efficiency, transparency and accountability in government functioning and expenditure, particularly in infrastructure. Modi had announced from the rampart of the Red Fort on the 75th Independence Day that he would launch Gati Shakti to ensure that the government’s plan to spend Rs 100 lakh crore in building long-term infrastructure was done in the most efficient way. After two months of that announcement, Gati Shakti rolled out on 14 October.

That this was in Prime Minister Modi’s thought process was evident when he spoke about this in his Independence Day speech in 2019 and 2020 as well. It takes time to develop an integrated system to ensure that such a massive exercise is carried out in the most planned manner to avoid delay and cost overruns, something that ails most government projects. There has been 20 percent cost overrun and three year time overrun in government infrastructure projects.

Mahatma Gandhi spoke of trusteeship. This means those who are in positions of power over government resources must spend it in such a way that it is not wasted and every penny must be accounted for. Spending of government money collected from taxes paid by people must be done to maximise benefits to the society. It is this thought that has been guiding the vision of the prime minister.

This intends to take the country away from ad hoc measures and enforce better resource planning and management, better integration of efforts of all nodal departments and efficiency in government spending. Ask anyone on the street about what he thinks about the government. He would use words such as “inefficient”, “slow”, “tardy”, etc. The work goes at snail’s pace and without any accountability and it appears that the government is doing a favour while undertaking any work. Even after years the signage of “Work in Progress” refuses to go.

To work on economies of scale, the country must plan big and for the long-term. The infrastructure planning must be done for at least 25 years so that the roads are not in a state of perpetual construction, building bridges do not take years and setting up big projects do not get delayed due to lack of environmental clearance.

Even in the capital city, roads and bridges are in a state of perpetual repair or construction, causing a lot of inconvenience and despair to the common man. Why can’t the government set its house in order and give a definite timeline so that uncertainty is removed?

Gati Shakti would change this image by bringing in pace and efficiency. This would be done by breaking the silos in which various departments of the government work and where one department is not aware of the work of the other. Since the government is one, all of its departments must work in perfect coordination guided by a master plan. Therefore, the buzzword in the Modi government that propels Gati Shakti is “break silos” for better governance.

Gati Shakti is a digital platform that would bring together 16 ministries of the Union government, including Railways and Roadways, “for integrated planning and coordinated implementation of infrastructure connectivity projects”.

Articulated best in the words of the prime minister: “Just as we have been successful in taking the government facilities in the country to the right beneficiary faster with the power of the JAM trinity — Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile — Gati Shakti will do the same work in the field of infra. It will provide a holistic vision — from infra planning to execution”. Needless to recall that introduction of JAM has helped the government save Rs 1.75 lakh crore that used to be lost due to various leakages in the delivery system.

Infrastructure projects of these ministries and state governments such as Bharatmala, Sagarmala, inland waterways, dry/land ports, UDAN, various economic zones and product specific clusters, defence corridors, electronic parks, industrial corridors, and agri zones will be covered.

Any government to be relevant must respond to modern needs in the best available way. It cannot be lagging behind technologically or in terms of equipment or use of modern IT tools while launching any project. This would need to attract the best minds and help to integrate government efforts through use of technology. The master plan will use these tools for coordinated planning of infrastructure. Digitisation will ensure timely clearances, flagging of issues and better project monitoring.

India needs better connectivity where roads, rails and ports are interlinked symbiotically. If the cost of transportation is high, the product or produce would become costly and non-competitive. Similarly, the national highways must be connected to state highways, state highways to inner city roads and to rural roads for complete road connectivity. With a little better planning, optical fibres and gas pipelines can be laid when construction of roads is in progress and not after construction has been completed. Similarly, why should railways not achieve better connectivity with ports if exports and imports have to become lucrative?

This would help an investor make a much better business plan. For example, while setting up a fertiliser plan one would need to know if the site had road/rail and communication connectivity. Whether gas supply is available easily or not would decide the viability of the plant. Integrated planning would ensure that the country has many such infrastructure sites that promote growth centres. Also, this would make possible that gas pipeline and communication connectivity would be easily available within reach of the common man at an affordable price.

The government would create the best infrastructure to promote economic activities since the cost of capital and infrastructure is huge. The government, however, would not run business. Private players would invest and run their business and pay for the services and taxes provided by the government. These players would be able to operate at their maximum potential and maximise profit. The government’s kitty would increase with increase in business activities and this would enable better spending on health, education and other needs of the society. Digital administration would ensure self-governance and the government would have minimal structure that would save a lot on wasteful government expenses.

The multi-modal connectivity will facilitate movement of people, goods and services from one mode of transport to another. It will achieve the last mile connectivity and reduce travel time.

The department for Promotion of Industry and Trade will function as the nodal ministry for Gati Shakti and an empowered group of secretaries under the Cabinet Secretary will be formed for quick decision making and coordination. GIS system and image mapping will be used to monitor progress of the projects. Gati Shakti is truly a game changer for India’s growth and prosperity.

The writer is the convener of the media relations department of the BJP and represents the party as a spokesperson on TV debates. He has authored the book ‘Narendra Modi: The Game Changer’. The views expressed are personal.

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