The Gati Shakti Sanchar portal is a national master plan that aims to bring about a paradigm shift in decision-making and processing clearances. It connects 16 ministries, including roads and highways, railways, shipping, petroleum and gas, power, telecom, and aviation, with a view to ensuring holistic planning and enabling quick execution of infrastructure projects.
The portal offers a collaborative institutional mechanism for all stakeholders including the central and state/union territory (UT) governments, central landowning authorities, local bodies and telecom sector entities. It is a crucial step towards ensuring ease of doing business. The portal also addresses the challenges of implementing the Right of Way (RoW) Rules 2016.
The Gati Shakti Sanchar portal was launched to address multiple impediments. The portal aims to ensure coordination among departments. For example, an area may undergo multiple digging initiatives by different departments. Now, with the central RoW portal in place, departments are aware of such activities being carried out in an area, and can use this information to install equipment without incurring the cost of digging the area again. The portal thus helps lower the cost of projects.
The launch of a centralised RoW portal also helps in ensuring faster approval of clearances. A system of time-bound clearance, with deemed approval within 60 days, is being followed. This will speed up roll-outs. With the Gati Shakti Sanchar portal in place, the multiplicity of regulatory clearances has been done away with. Moreover, the processes of land acquisition and obtaining environmental clearances have been made seamless.
- The centralised RoW portal acts as a single-window clearance for RoW permissions for any state.
- The portal facilitates faster approvals and is monitored by the Ministry of Communications. Moreover, applications are deemed approved after 60 days.
- Features such as centralised application tracking, a help desk and automated alerts regarding the disposal status of applications foster accountability.
- The portal is enabling faster roll-out of 5G services through speedy clearances. Additionally, activities such as tower fiberisation and laying of optical fibre cables for fibre-to-the-home and broadband connections are expected to gain impetus.
Issues and challenges
Although the Gati Shakti Sanchar portal aims at integrating departments across states for smoother and more coordinated functioning, it faces certain issues and challenges. As of now, 24 states are yet to implement the deemed approval feature of the portal. Meanwhile, some state departments are yet to implement online payment on the portal. Each of the states need to designate a single account for online payment (centralised payment), to ensure simplified implementation.
As for pending features, the portal should send system-generated periodic alerts or SMSs to officers with whom applications have been pending for a considerable amount of time. Moreover, the portal should standardise rejections and specify reasons for pendency.
Exorbitant charges and varying fees are being charged by different state bodies under various heads. The charges and levies enshrined within the original policies should be standardised, to a reasonable degree, across the country. Moreover, there is a lack of clarity regarding the documents that need to be submitted. To this end, there is a need to specify a fixed set of documents, and their submission should be facilitated through IT-enabled tools such as drop-down options. Further, the rate of rejection for tower applications is high. A standardised and harmonised list of rejection codes should be provided on the portal.
As per the central RoW dashboard data, 36 states and UTs have been onboarded on to the portal. Madhya Pradesh was the first state to develop an online RoW portal, while Telangana was the first state to develop a WhatsApp group to facilitate the “call before you dig” policy, for the state and telecom industries. Besides, Maharashtra became the first state to provide electricity board tariffs for the telecom industry at industrial rates.
The states are gradually taking active steps on the RoW front. Tamil Nadu and Gujarat have aligned their state RoW policies with the Indian Telegraph RoW Rules 2016, and the amended one-time compensation of Rs 1,000 per km for laying overhead OFC. Meanwhile, the Kerala government has announced the availability of government land and buildings at cheaper rates in rural areas for deploying telecom infrastructure, as the telecom sector has been recognised as an essential service in its new draft RoW policy. In Meghalaya, 1,016 sites were approved under the deemed approval provision, with immediate effect. Meanwhile, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Assam granted one-time deemed approvals for all offline RoW applications on the condition that fee payment receipts are produced by telecom service providers. Further, Assam, Odisha, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have instituted automatic deemed approval provisions, granted online, for all tower permissions pending for over 60 days.
Based on a presentation by T.R. Dua, Director General, DIPA