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Geo-spatial data beneficial for farmers, says PM Modi as India ends barrier on surveying, mapping to boost infrastructure

Indian outfits have been permitted to carry out street-view surveys – something that wasn’t allowed for Google – besides terrestrial mobile mapping and surveys
Last Updated : 15 February 2021, 15:59 IST

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The Centre on Monday opened up the restricted mapping sector by allowing private companies to collect mapping data and offer map services in the open market without seeking any approvals from the government.

Indian outfits have been permitted to carry out street-view surveys – something that wasn’t allowed for Google – besides terrestrial mobile mapping and surveys in the country's territorial waters. While there would be some restrictions on sensitive installations, mapping is allowed in most parts of India.

“If there is access to an area, there would not be any restrictions on Indian entities for making maps. For Indian entities, there would be no prior approvals, security clearance and licences for acquisition and production of geospatial data and maps,” Ashutosh Sharma, secretary, Department of Science and Technology said here.

The opening up, the government hoped, would encourage Indian private companies in a big way to enter this arena, which is likely to be a Rs 1 lakh-crore sector spawning nearly 22 lakh jobs by 2030.

Indian companies had so far been required to seek licenses and approvals to create and publish maps and other geospatial data. Ending those restrictions is part of India’s push toward Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goal of self-reliance, the government said in a statement.

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“There will be unprecedented value creation for Indian economy and society,” said Rohan Verma, chief executive officer of MapmyIndia, which has been building digital maps and advanced geospatial technology products. “Sectors such as agriculture, health-care, finance, revenue, logistics, transportation, technology, commerce and many more --which form 70% of India’s GDP will be positively impacted.”

Union Science Minister Harsh Vardhan and the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh released the new policy prepared by the Ministry of Science and Technology. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, in a series of tweets, welcomed the change, describing it as a “landmark reform” and a massive step towards “Aatmanirbhar Bharat”.

While data can be collected using satellite images, drones, LIDARs (light detection and ranging) and ground truthing surveys, Indian companies are also allowed to acquire and store high-resolution satellite images (finer-than-one metre) in India.

The policy also permits private companies to obtain data generated by public funds – such as ISRO satellite images – for a price. A level-playing field would be provided to private companies, Sharma said. Sensitive information, however, would not be shown.

“It was a long pending policy change sought by the GIS sector. Indian companies currently can’t sell surveys and maps in the market because the permissions from the Defence Ministry – on the basis of Survey of India recommendations – barely come,” Ravi Gupta, an expert of geospatial studies and founder director of Centre for Science Development and Media Studies told DH.

“The mapping sector has now been opened to private companies. They don’t require any prior approval to undertake any such mapping or survey contracts. So far, only the Geological Survey of India (ground based) and ISRO (space based) had blanket permission. Everyone else had to apply for a licence and provide credentials and justification for doing the mapping,” explained Aniket Sule, a scientist at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.

The policy change comes at a time when the government is in the process of opening up the space sector. Taken together, the two sectors contribute significantly towards the Centre’s ambitious Smart City programme.

(With inputs from Bloomberg)

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Published 15 February 2021, 14:04 IST

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