In barely about eight months in 1947-48, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, the first deputy prime minister of Independent India, prepared for a winter he knew was coming in Kashmir. Ever prescient, Patel led construction of telecommunication links between Srinagar and Delhi on a war-footing.
It was he who pushed through the building of the Jammu-Pathankot road for which 70 special trains were pressed to service and a labour force of 40,000 worked round-the-clock to construct the around 90-kilometre road with 17-kilometre of bridges and culverts.
His fears of course came true, and India benefitted immensely from his foresight. This project was only possible because Patel had complete control on all the various parts (and departments) required to deliver it.
IMPORTANCE OF GATISHAKTI
There are two ideas in this which are relevant in understanding the importance of GatiShakti deft coordination to construct infrastructure and use infrastructure to build national unity and common purpose.
GatiShakti brings together on one platform an understanding of where India is, in terms of infrastructure, and where it needs to be. This is not only important to seamlessly coordinate projects across states, and sectors, but perhaps even more critically, it is urgently needed for a deeper sense of sovereignty.
Infrastructure in India has always been implemented mostly in what I would call a ‘pocket approach’. This means that problems are identified or highlighted in narrow focus locations and solutions implemented ‘in that region alone’.
Sometimes this has very strange outputs. For instance, in a road that might need overall upkeep, suddenly one or two potholes would be filled, and often in such a hasty manner that the first sign of rain, and the potholes reappear in even bigger sizes.
This is just a small example of what is a much bigger issue. The lack of a centralised repository of information and action-oriented detail leads to that classic anecdote in infrastructure building the same road gets made over and over again, every year.
GatiShakti solves these issues by creating a cartographical vision and imagination where needs and delivery schedules across the country could be observed and implemented through a unified command-and-control approach. Technological intervention would reduce duplication and other problems such as local mishandling of finances and project timelines.
It would also help connect critical economic areas to state and national infrastructure and help avoid that other problem where an economic zone may be envisaged but sometimes allied infrastructure is not adequately developed.
GatiShakti is likely to do for infrastructure what financial technology has done for monetary transactions and disbursement created a holistic sense of what is needed, where, and how it can be sent in the most efficient manner.
In the next phase of India’s growth, the country would need productivity leaps at every level, and without such technological interventions that aggregate and analyse, productivity jumps would be difficult. Also, unless such a universalist approach is taken, rapid deployment of investment is difficult to achieve.
As India receives ever greater volumes of foreign direct investment, speed of transaction and deployment would be critical. This is why GatiShakti is important.
The final point on GatiShakti involves the idea of sovereignty. India is in the middle of resolving its last issues of sovereignty. A sense of national unity is vital for its next phase of growth and security. This means thinking, not in silos, but as a whole, and helping Indians understand their country and its needs as a whole.
It is only when this understanding of nationhood develops not only at the heart of the mainland but also at the peripheries that a renewed sense of national purpose can be built. India needs this sense of national purpose for it to tackle the challenges that are rising, everything from security challenges to the risk of climate change. None of these problems can be tackled in silos.
It is Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel who said, “Manpower without unity is not a strength unless it is harmonised and united properly, then it becomes a spiritual power.”
India has the manpower. It has always had the manpower, and a greater sense of unity would resolve many of our issues. That is what GatiShakti helps promote.