CATS Framework To Give A Boost To Pradhan Mantri Gati Shakti Scheme
The PMGS scheme is a game-changing initiative and can boost economic growth, attract foreign investments and enhance the country's global competitiveness.
On 13 October 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched India's first National Infrastructure Master Plan, the Pradhan Mantri Gati Shakti (PMGS) scheme.
PM Gati Shakti is an initiative to accelerate growth and build reliable infrastructure using coordinated, holistic, integrated, and thorough planning built on knowledge, technology, and innovation.
The scheme's objective is that infrastructure projects should be designed and executed with a common vision, not in silos. The scheme will integrate the infrastructure projects like Bharatmala, Sagarmala and UDAN of various ministries and state governments.
It will also cover Economic Zones like textile clusters, pharmaceutical clusters, defence corridors, electronic parks, industrial corridors, and fishing clusters to improve connectivity and make Indian businesses more competitive.
The PMGS scheme is a game-changing initiative and can boost economic growth, attract foreign investments and enhance the country's global competitiveness. The government must be commended for not only conceiving such a scheme but also taking well-informed steps to support the plan.
Firstly, a separate institutional framework in the form of a three-tier structure has been set up to roll out, implement, monitor and support the plan.
It consists of an Empowered Group of Secretaries (EGOs), a Network Planning Group (NPG) and a Technical Support Unit (TSU).
Secondly, the competency of India in the Information Technology space has been aptly utilised as the backbone of the plan. A digital master planning tool has been developed by BISAG-N (Bhaskaracharya National Institute for Space Applications and Geoinformatics).
The data of all the existing/planned initiatives of various ministries/departments will be available on this portal and visible to all stakeholders.
The data will also be GIS tagged with real-time updates provided by way of a map developed by BISAG-N.
Thirdly, there is a strong push from the top level for this change. This scheme has strong backing from the Prime Minister, and a EGoS under the Chairmanship of the Cabinet Secretary has been constituted to closely monitor the Master Plan.
This focus will provide the necessary impetus to drive change and get buy-in from all levels of government.
Lastly, there is a deliberate and strategic focus on collaboration. As of date, 21 ministries are a part of the master plan and as the plan goes forward, more ministries will be on-boarded.
The NPG, with heads of the Network Planning Division of all connectivity infrastructure ministries and departments, has been made responsible for unified planning and integration of the proposals and assisting the EGoS in respect of its mandate.
NPG will facilitate regular interactions and coordination between the different stakeholders.
The CATS Framework
Notwithstanding the above positive steps taken by the government, the four elements of the CATS Framework as elaborated below are proposed to fill the missing gaps in the scheme and give it the necessary push to become a success.
While the Gati Shakti National Plan has ensured the necessary structural requirements are in place, a focus on the cultural aspect is also required.
The success of the plan will require establishing a culture of collaborative working so that the different departments can break their silos and come together to achieve the common goal.
This requires establishing a common vision with common values; establishing an environment of trust, reciprocity and empathy; encouraging more inter-departmental communication and interaction; and having strong leaders at strategic, managerial, and local levels who can nurture the right skills and attitudes amongst their staff or find workarounds for structural issues.
The interdepartmental groups charged with leading the reform should be given formal authority in the different departments. Developing interdepartmental committees can end up creating new teams and administrative structures that are not well integrated with existing departments.
Without proper authority, the interdepartmental teams might generate ideas but lack the implementation capacity or accountability mechanisms to get things done.
This makes them vulnerable to budget cuts in the face of cost pressures, as they are perceived to be ineffective and a drain on departmental resources.
To make the program a success, the workforce needs to be trained in boundary-spanning qualities. These are those sets of qualities that help employees collaborate across departments seamlessly.
They include the ability to manage the complexity and interdependence involved in working across horizontal and vertical boundaries, managing multiple and potentially conflicting accountabilities, the capacity to see the problem from the perspective of other stakeholders, and good interpersonal communication skills.
This training can be done through different mechanisms like joint training, networking initiatives, and greater staff mobility across departments.
India is a sovereign Union of States and the active involvement of states in a National Plan is crucial for its success.
The Economic Survey 2020-21 also highlighted the role of active Centre-State partnerships for infrastructure building. The government has realized the importance of this element of the CATS framework and has taken the first step in this direction recently.
At a recent high-level meeting of the Prime Minister to review the progress of numerous infrastructure projects, he was reported to have advised Chief Secretaries to establish a Gati Shakti Master Plan at the state level.
To conclude, the Gati Shakti National Master Plan is a landmark plan that incorporates data and technology to streamline and fast-track logistics projects across the country.
Integrating the CATS framework in the Master Plan will provide it with the essential agility, balance and strength to help India leap towards achieving the dream of becoming a $20 trillion economy by 2040.
(The Author is an officer of the Indian Railways Accounts Service and presently working with the Northern Railways. The views expressed are personal)
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