The Centre’s launch of GatiShakti, envisaged as national master plan for multimodal connectivity, and designed to streamline project implementation, is a welcome initiative. It would bring together as many as 16 ministries, including rail, road transport and ports, on a common platform for integrated planning and coordinated action. The strategy outlined is that GatiShakti would incorporate different infrastructure schemes such as Bharatmala, Sagarmala and inland waterways, together with textile and pharmaceutical clusters, defence and industrial corridors, electronic parks, as well as food parks, fishing clusters and agricultural zones to boost logistics and provide world-class infrastructure facilities.
The idea is to do away with departmental silos for infrastructure development, and to proactively speed up project implementation for the big-ticket investments in the pipeline, estimated at ₹100 lakh crore. Timely project completion sans cost overruns would imply huge national savings plus systemic economic gains. However, GatiShakti would perform well below its potential were it to function merely as a sounding board and information portal. It surely needs to be a forum for independent appraisal of projects.
We clearly need to avoid conflict of interest between entities involved in project preparation, their appraisal and subsequent approval. Institutionalising robust vetting, review structures and attendant processes are of the essence. The Gateway Review in the UK is a mandatory peer review process; there are similar systems elsewhere: MIRT framework in the Netherlands and PIMAC in South Korea. We must also institute project review by multiple stakeholders here. And, financing projects calls for a vibrant corporate debt market.