India will have its map policy in next six months

India will have its map policy in next six months


Shri Kapil Sibal in this candid interview shares his views on the utilisation of tools of Remote Sensing, GIS, GPS, Aerial Photography for social and economic development.Kapil Sibal
Kapil Sibal
Honourable Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Science and Technology and ocean development,
Government of india

Shri Kapil Sibal in this candid interview shares his views on the utilisation of tools of Remote Sensing, GIS, GPS, Aerial Photography for social and economic development. He highlights the present status of India in the field of science and technology and the future scope of its growth

How do you see your Ministry’s role with regard to present situation of science and technology in India?
India has a long history of high quality and relevant research and development. Today, we not only have to see what the nation’s present needs are, but also what it would require 25 years hence. Starting with agriculture, we need to double our food production and ensure better quality inputs to our farmers. Reforming the health sector is a challenge. Infrastructure development is another area to be taken seriously. Going by the figures, 67 per cent of our population is involved in agriculture and rural industry, which contributes about 20 per cent to the GDP. Even the manufacturing sector is contributing around 30 per cent towards the GDP. In this context the service sector takes a lead with 50 per cent. Is it that 700 million people do not contribute to the wealth of the nation? In this scenario, the Ministry has a vital role of addressing the needs of every sector independently.

How do you see the growth of knowledge-based industry?
If the 19th and 20th centuries demanded investments in the form of capital, the 21st century needs knowledge as an investment. Knowledge management and dissemination have to be ensured for all sectors. ICT and various tools are fundamental and the large pool of scientific community in India needs to be tapped. The government has to make investments to raise the technical know-how.

A National Spatial Mapping Policy is said on the cards. What are your views?
We have contemplated that India will have a National Map Policy in next six months. We would be moving the Cabinet for its approval. The Policy shall be an essential step in this domain. There are some concerns with the Ministry of Defence that are being worked out on application and usage of aerial photography. Once the policy comes in place we can make the state governments realize the benefits of GIS. In terms of policy we should have a transparent policy, subject to the concerns of security that invites both private and government departments working together.

The Indian GIS industry is very small compared to the US $10 billion global GIS industry. What plans do you have for this sector?
Satellite technology, GIS, GPS are relatively new disciplines worldwide and hold tremendous potential. All these tools have been extensively tested and are crucial for achieving rational development objectives. Interestingly, these tools are also applicable at various levels of execution. Mapping is a key step. We have one of the best satellite technologies in the world and one of the oldest surveying agencies, the Survey of India (SoI). Digital mapping technologies and latest trends are being embraced these days and soon this industry is to see days of fertile growth. I believe GIS is a revolutionary tool to change the lives of common people. It has applications in urban planning, traffic management, water resources, road construction system, primary health, and disaster management. This tool has to be utilized for developing wealth in the rural sector and for integrating the rural sector with the modern urban economy.

Do you think that the SoI’s range of maps is adequate? What is your opinion on moving towards 1:5,000 or 1:10,000 scale maps or need-based maps?
We have maps of scales lower than 1:50,000 for rural areas. It is true that we need good maps for urban areas. SoI alone cannot complete the task of mapping. It will have to delegate the work to private entrepreneurs so that within couple of years we have the entire data on the required scales. Having data on the right scale is not enough, it should be supplemented by data from other government departments. It has to be tailor-made for use by each department. We need a road map for broad general mapping on required scales and this would call for the expertise from the public as well as the private parties.

Some developed countries have self-sustaining models whereby the cost is recovered by their product policies. Can SoI work on such models?
SoI has a vital social cause other than recovering costs. We would like the agency to generate revenue as well as perform its socially responsible functions. We would like to study all the examples and prevailing systems around the world. However, each country is unique with its own set of characteristics and hence India needs to develop its own policies. Suggestions from the industry are welcome. Privatization is perhaps not the panacea for everything!

Cadastral maps in India are almost centuries old. Do you think SoI can or should play a role in this aspect? Land is a state subject and doesn’t directly fall under the purview of SoI. Updated cadastral maps are very much necessary and can be key to many development and grassroots level work. Cooperation from the state governments or a center-state partnership is needed. Awareness is also a critical issue. Rural India has assets but in the absence of titles and ownerships that are not recorded it is not saleable asset. The National Spatial Mapping Policy shall set the ball rolling.

Certain private companies have developed data, which they are reluctant to share. Is there any plan to come out with a policy on data sharing?
Any private body might develop a database within their capacity but why they are not sharing or selling it is perhaps an internal matter stemming from their own constraints. We are in the process of framing policy, as I told you, and this issue will be part of that.

What steps are to be taken for the modernization of SoI?
I have asked the concerned persons to prepare a plan to upgrade SoI – this has been asked for Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) also. We want to upgrade the departments in terms of human resources restructuring, technical skills of the staff and the focus areas of activities. Above all, we have to keep in mind how the technology brings a progressive change in a common man’s life and that bringing in of technology should not become a socially depriving exercise. We are yet to study how SoI’s activities contribute towards creating new areas of employment.