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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : The ideal track to run India’s logistics system

 

Source: The Hindu

 

  • Prelims: Current events of international importance(Budget, PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan, TEU, Dedicated Freight Corridors etc
  • Mains GS Paper II & III: Bilateral, regional and global grouping involving India, Significance of Indo-Pacific for India etc

 

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Union Budget 2023 has doubled the PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan to States from ₹5,000 crore to ₹10,000 crore, and has announced an outlay of ₹2.4(two point four)lakh crore for the Indian Railways.

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan:

 

Plans:

  • Transformative approach for economic growth and sustainable development dependent on the engines of roads, railways, airports, ports, mass transport, waterways and logistics infrastructure”.
  • Target of increasing the share of the railways in freight movement from 27% to 45%
  • Increasing freight movement from 2(one point two)billion tonnes to 3.3(three point three)billion tonnes, by 2030
  • PM Gati Shakti provides the right platform to address the infrastructural challenges that have hampered the movement of freight by rail.

 

What is the current situation?

  • The modal mix in terms of freight movement is skewed by a considerable extent towards road transport, with 65% of freight movement by road.
  • Increased burden on roads, and, therefore, significant congestion, increased pollution, and resultant logistics cost escalations.
  • Freight movement cost is the highest in the road sector — nearly twice the rail cost.
  • In 2020-21: coal constituted 44% of the total freight movement of 2(one point two)billion tonnes, followed by iron ore (13%), cement (10%), food grains (5%), fertilizers (4%), iron and steel (4%), etc.
  • Transportation of non-bulk commodities accounts for a very small share in the rail freight movement.

 

Rise in container traffic:

  • The convenience of moving non-bulk commodities in containers has led to an increase in containerised traffic
    • Growing from 6(seven point six)million Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit (TEU)in 2008 to 16.2(sixteen point two)million TEUs in 2020.
    • TEU: It is a unit of cargo capacity.
  • Globally: railway systems are heavily investing in advanced rail infrastructure for quick and low-cost container movement.
  • China uses special trains to carry containers that connect significant ports to the inland.
    • It has dedicated rail lines to move container traffic and planned double-decker container carriages for greater efficiency.
  • Indian Railways are upgrading their infrastructure (PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan)
    • identification of new priority areas will help in achieving the targets of rail freight movement.
    • At present, these are significantly lower than other countries such as the United States and China.

 

Issues facing currently:

  • The national transporter faces several infrastructural, operational and connectivity challenges, in turn leading to a shift of freight traffic to roads.
  • The increased transit time by rail and pre-movement and post-movement procedural delays such as wagon placement, loading and unloading operations, multi-modal handling, etc., hamper freight movement by rail.
  • The lack of necessary terminal infrastructure, maintenance of good sheds and warehouses
  • Uncertain supply of wagons are some of the infrastructural challenges that customers face.
    • This results in high network congestion, lower service levels, and increased transit time.
  • The absence of integrated first and last-mile connectivity by rail increases the chances of damage due to multiple handling and also increases the inventory holding cost.

 

Way Forward

  • The upcoming Dedicated Freight Corridors along India’s eastern and western corridors and multimodal logistics parks will ease the oversaturated line capacity constraints and improve the timing of trains.
  • The Indian Railways need to improve infrastructure that is backed by adequate policy tools and also encourage private participation in the operation and management of terminals, containers, and warehouses to efficiently utilize resources.
  • Establishing a special entity under the railways to handle intermodal logistics in partnership with the private sector will help in addressing the first and last-mile issue faced by the railways.
    • The entity could function as a single window for customers for cargo movement and payment transactions.
  • There are two cargo wagons in each passenger train: Based on industry recommendations, introduction of an Uber-like model for one of the two cargo wagons, wherein the customer can book the wagon using an online application, could help in increasing the utilization rate of these wagons.
  • The Indian Railways may keep operating the other wagon, the way it is done currently, until the success of the proposed model is established.
    • This could directly increase freight traffic without any additional investment in infrastructure.
  • An integrated logistics infrastructure with first and last-mile connectivity is essential to make rail movement competitive with roads, and facilitate exports by rail to neighboring countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh.

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

Investment in infrastructure is essential for more rapid and inclusive economic growth.” discuss in the light of India’s experience. (UPSC 2021) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)