Addressing the Press in a noteworthy Press Conference on 3rd September 2004, Kapil Sibal, the Union Science and Technology minister talked of various plans of the Department of Science and Technology in the field of ‘geo-technology’ for the recent future. Dr Prithvish Nag, Surveyor General of India and Prof V S Ramamurthi, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology (DST) were also in the panel addressing the Press.
Mr Sibal referred the Indian Prime Minister’s Independence Day speech, where there was a mention that the use of science and technology for development purpose is a fundamental and basic necessity. In that backdrop he mentioned that there is going to be revolution in the way maps and digital maps will be handled in the country.
A National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) of India is on the anvil, which will invigorate the growth of geospatial activities in the country. It has been presented to the government for approval and will be there in place by the end of this year, the minister said. NSDI for India is an initiative jointly undertaken by DST and Department of Space. It is aimed at encouraging collection and distribution of spatial data by different mapping agencies. NSDI also aims at a common defined standard and format for different themes of mapping in India. It will make available metadata from various participating agencies to the users and facilitate them with simple and smooth procedure in obtaining them.
Currently, 43% of the country’s area falls in the restricted zone, information for which on maps are not available for the public unless by special permissions from the Ministry of Defence. Filming these places or showing their contours, geo-reference and height has been restricted by the defence ministry. Mr Sibal said a committee of secretaries has been formed which will be meeting later this month to discuss the modalities involved in the NSDI and the new map policy with reference to the interests of Ministry of Defense. There will be in all probability two series of maps — one exclusively for defence and one for civilians. Lack of information should not be an impediment to development process, he mentioned. However, the basic features of this civilian’s set of maps are yet to be understood or thrown light upon. Interestingly, this issue is more than three years old!
By 2005, the ministry is also planning to provide GPS for motor vehicles in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Kolkata. A central server will be set up by the ministry that can be accessed by GPS screens installed in cars. This system would allow drivers to know their location and the directions to reach their destination,” he said.