03 November 2023

India Shining

Celebrating India’s achievements on the global stage

India's rapid economic growth has propelled it into a pivotal role on the world stage. The recent historic milestone in space research, with India's successful endeavours in the field, has garnered global attention and admiration. But the crowning achievement was India's role as the host of the 2023 G20 Summit, the largest ever, with heads of state, governments, and delegates from member countries in attendance.

One of the key highlights of the G20 summit was the announcement of an economic corridor connecting the European Union, the Middle East, and India via waterways and railways. This groundbreaking initiative aims to foster economic integration through trade and digital infrastructure, establishing India as a vital player in the global economic landscape.

India's Stance on Sustainable Growth

India's presidency of the G20 in 2023 provided a platform to emphasize its commitment to sustainable and inclusive growth. Under the theme "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam," which translates to "One Earth, One Family, One Future," India championed the cause of addressing global challenges with a universal approach. The G20's agenda, which focuses on sustainable infrastructure, aligns seamlessly with India's objectives.

A quick glance at India’s G20 priorities

  • Technological Transformation with human centric approach along with digital public infrastructure, tech based development in education and agricultural sectors
  • Supporting smart cities as key engines of economic expansion and commitment for sustainable infrastructure development essential for investment, trade, commerce and tourism
  • Introduction of LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment) to promote environmental conscious culture along with the country’s sustainable traditions
  • Climate change emphasizing climate finance and technology with clean energy transitions for developing countries, shaping a global health outlook

Deep diving into India’s Infrastructure Status and Strides

India’s aim to reach a robust US$ 5 trillion by year 2025 is chiefly driven by its infrastructure growth. The nation's post-pandemic focus on digital and social infrastructure has expanded beyond traditional areas like roads, railways, ports, and power transmission lines.

Initiatives such as the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP), the Make in India campaign, and Production Linked Incentives have been launched to enhance India's infrastructure and attract investments gathering data and information by diverse stakeholders like line ministries, state departments and governments, private sectors. The allocation of Rs 10 lakh crore (3.3% of GDP) in the 2023-24 budget underscores the government's commitment to inclusive growth through infrastructure development, that will ease movement of people and goods while creating employment opportunities, and bring private investments and promote allied interests including travel and tourism.

With Rs 2.4 lakh crore, the Railway Ministry too had its highest ever allocation while Rs 2.7 lakh crore given towards the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. A move that benefited the state governments was the extension of 50-year interest free loans to invite infrastructure investment with policy actions carrying incentives. This would bring in much needed decentralization of infrastructure development across urban and semi urban areas. With 66% increase in PM Awas Yojana rural workers can gain with housing and job benefits.

Roadblocks encountered:

Addressing Land and Human Factors:

Land acquisition presents challenges, particularly in terms of human resettlement and compensation. Additionally, there's a lack of adequate technology and expertise for projects. Funding can be constrained due to regulatory and economic obstacles.

Meeting the Need for a Skilled Workforce:

Project delays often result from a shortage of skilled workers, managers, and engineers. The involvement of political complexities can hinder support for social projects like education and healthcare. Insufficient planning and implementation can compromise project quality and sustainability.

Addressing the Need for Enhanced Network and Security:

The digital divide, marked by poor internet access and technology limitations in rural areas, poses a significant issue. With the growing reliance on digital platforms, concerns related to cyber security and privacy have escalated, necessitating strong regulations and surveillance. Inadequate standardization and coordination among digital infrastructure stakeholders weaken innovation prospects.

Government's Encouraging Initiatives:

The government has embarked on a proactive journey with initiatives like Gati Shakti, a catalyst for systemic changes and reforms. This involves upgrading the existing road and rail systems to enhance efficiency, cut costs, and create jobs.

These efforts encompass various national and state-level schemes, such as Bharatmala, Sagarmala, and others, targeting sectors ranging from textiles to agriculture, with a focus on enhancing India's competitiveness and connectivity. An example is the Bhavnagar-Veraval corridor, linking key locations and boosting economic activities and tourism.

The government has set ambitious goals, including the eradication of sickle cell anemia by 2047 and the launch of the world's largest school feeding program for students in government schools.

In the digital realm, the government has introduced the JAM trinity to facilitate direct money transfers to beneficiaries and is promoting the adoption of cutting-edge technologies like IoT, 5G, mechatronics, robotics, and quantum computing.

The budget has also introduced an agriculture accelerator fund to foster collaboration among startups, businesses, and agriculturalists, driving the development of farmer-centric solutions.

What’s with Smart Cities and Climate Change?

Smart Cities Mission, a Government initiative was launched for cities and towns with public private partnerships. It was intended to improve people's living quality utilizing best practices, enabling local area growth and harnessing information and digital technology .It allows states more flexibility in using land for different purposes and bylaws in accordance with changes keeping a check on environmental safeguards. It envisages housing opportunities for all, to reduce congestion and air pollution, ensure security and promote local economy and interaction.

Smart steps taken so far

The smart city mission covering 100 cities under 7742 projects, a total of 5002 projects has seen completion at a cost 92, 561 crores with 2,740 projects still ongoing.

To minimize accidents new ways pedestrians have been designed for cyclists and walkers. Parks and open recreational spaces and more transport options have been promoted. Online services have been launched to introduce transparency and government accountability and help citizens’ access services without visiting municipal offices.

The mission has been conscious of environmental sensitivity focusing on smart solutions for basic infrastructure like treatment of C&D waste, energy efficiency and green buildings, waste to energy and fuel, smart meters and management of water and electricity, identifying leakage, monitoring water quality. There is focus on solutions for electronic service delivery of citizens, public information and grievance redressal, video crime monitoring, citizen engagement, smart parking, intelligent traffic management, integrated multi modal transport, telemedicine, trade facilitation centers, skill development centers.

Establishing a smart culture

The government’s launch of DataSmart Cities would establish a data culture locally, aligning all smart cities in a network having a data strategy. It also would encourage peer to peer learning and knowledge sharing about data driven governance across the cities. This would improve efficiency of decisions of governance, accountability and transparency encouraging people participation, co-creation and bring innovative solutions.

Indian agriculture has faced rain deficit monsoons and crop cycles have been upset .Parts of India faces water crisis with shrinkage of supplies and there is the threat of rising sea levels. Loss of habitat and climate change pose major disrupts to biodiversity.

Most countries have ambitious targets to minimize greenhouse gas emissions. Smart cities and urban living spaces contribute to greenhouse emissions, energy consumptions and economic activity. India contributes nearly 6.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) with cities contributing more than 50% of this share arising from transport activity, buildings, industries and waste. Degradation of natural resources and rapid urbanization propels severe and sudden climatic changes. Cities are facing extreme heat and cold days, water crisis, flash floods, heat island effect, droughts, water logging and air pollution.

Future roadmap

No nation can grow unless it has a focused, disciplined work culture. All efforts otherwise eventually become ineffective or fragmented.

For this investing in social infrastructure is the first need of the hour as it leads to efficient, effective and a workforce with professional mindset. It instills optimum use of time, less wastage, elevated social mobility and enhanced quality of life. An economy becomes inclusive and strengthened when focus is given towards better education, skilling, nutrition , public health facilities, drinking water and sanitation. For successful projects there should be an expansion and intent towards Public Private Partnerships to construct, design, fund and execute infrastructure projects more effectively. For timely completion and remaining within budget the government can streamline the planning and implementation processes.

Since finance is a core area of concern the government should consider creative financing options like infrastructure bonds for additional finance mobilization. The projects may also enjoy the benefits of FDI’s if the government eases regulations and creates a favorable ecosystem.

In a vast country like India with different educational and socio economic distribution, the government should build a competent human capital by right technical training and employing skilled labour for the infrastructure projects by facilitating access to training modules and quality education. Schemes like Skill India, Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) was floated for such purpose. Providing in job training and options for apprenticeship by investing in human resource development programs is also required. There should be room for innovation and research. Quality control of materials and work execution can be standardized by government regulations. It should regulate and specify fire safety, accessibility standards, evacuation, etc for the purpose of human resource welfare connected with the projects. Employing independent professionals for inspection and testing will speed up identifying technical snags that may be addressed prior to infrastructure being set out to use.

Like other countries India has to set targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Cities have to cut down on energy usage. Smart cities can play a major role by harnessing innovative technologies and automating processes in smart city applications through efficient taxi sharing, traffic management, finding parking spaces, remote working, smart energy metering, monitoring pollution, optimizing street lighting, and optimizing refuse collection.

The mission needs to address the delays in approving state projects. Cities can truly be smart and sustainable if consistent efforts are made to increase appropriate revenue models for smart initiatives. For better data management hiring competent and trained tech experts and city planners is a must. The stakeholders and governments should understand the professional requirement and hire technicians prior to project commencement. Focus should be made on avoiding inconsistent network connectivity and strengthening protection from cyber security threats.

The NPG (Network Planning Group) constituted under PM Gati Shakti is a very positive step so far having examined 229 critical infra structure projects of different ministries including ports and steel. NPG has representations across different connectivity infrastructure ministries as well as departments that involve heads of network planning divisions. It has been encouraging to see the NPG recommend six infrastructure projects in March this year during its 45th session.

Such rapid and planned developments ultimately, spell immense hope and potential towards realizing India’s dreams and aspirations of sustaining its position as one of the brightest, leading and growing economy.

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