We have not restricted anyone from procuring what is easily available: Ashutosh Sharma

Economy


Why did you decide to liberalise the mapping sector?

To have the speed, accuracy and scale needed to meet the demands of surveying and mapping today, the PM’s clear vision and direction have been to liberalise and democratise the geospatial sector fully, and not in half-measures. These measures have been long overdue. Doing it in bits and pieces as a patchwork would have missed the intended objectives of empowering both public and private sectors for the nation’s development

What’s the reason for restraining foreign firms?

We have not restricted anyone, including foreign firms, from procuring what is easily available, i.e. data up to 1 m horizontal and 3 m vertical accuracy. But acquisition and use of more accurate data will be limited to Indian firms. This is to empower Indian firms with Indian data. Indian firms as well as our government mapping agencies must get a level playing field on data acquisition and use it to build their businesses on. The move also ensures better data security. Foreign companies can license such data from an Indian entity but without ownership or sharing rights. They can build an application on the data which will be useful for India.

Can an Indian company outsource some work to a foreign firm?

Yes, but only for building an application on top of the data. Data and application will remain with the Indian entity.

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Do you foresee Centre-state friction cropping up? Land is a state subject.

States are very positive and proactive in getting detailed surveys done. Haryana, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have already engaged Survey of India to capture high-resolution data. MP, UP and Maharashtra governments are also keen on getting their states fully mapped. As far as our new guidelines are concerned, states will benefit in having ease of mapping.

How long will be the negative list, the no-go areas?

Different ministries are involved in this process. We will respect what’s really sensitive. Of course, we must not unnecessarily lengthen this list. We will prepare a list of negative attributes, not negative areas, meaning a sensitive area can be spotted on the map but it will not be identified. Nor will its features be described or characterised.

In value terms, how big is the business that this new policy will likely unlock?

It’s estimated that there will be an annual business of Rs 1 lakh crore in the geospatial sector by 2029. Now, it is about Rs 30,000 crore. New Indian firms will come to this sector and those already in it will grow bigger. We expect a large number of startups to venture into building data applications — one can be on flood prediction, another on crowd management during Kumbh Mela. The list is endless and spans infrastructure, logistics and services sectors. The impact on the economy will be far in excess of Rs 1 lakh crore, which is the size of business just in the creation of geospatial data and applications.

Is the government planning to create a new breed of professionals — certified surveyors?

The concept of certified surveyors cropped up in our discussions. It is a good idea. But we have yet to take a call on how to go about it. Survey of India’s training institute in Hyderabad can be upgraded to an autonomous training institute and eventually a deemed university to train and certify surveyors. DST is working out the details.



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