April 7, 2017

Speaking at “Inauguration of National Aero-Geophysical Mapping Programme”, New Delhi

Thank you madam, Shri Arun Kumarji, Secretary Mines; Director General of the Geological Survey of India, Mr Raju; the Additional Director General, Dr Niranjan Kumar Singh; JS Mines, Ms Reena Sinha, JS …. Mines, Representatives from FIMI, FICCI, AMD, Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of Earth Sciences and several other colleagues, representatives from private sector, from the mining industry, from the project implementing agencies, from the companies who have won these contracts through a transparent tendering process – MCFAR, GeoKen, ICE and our consultant Mr Stephen, representatives from the mining industries, friends from the media, ladies and gentlemen.

My apologies I was a little late, I am a little under the weather today. But then when I saw the calendar of events through the day, I realized that we are doing something which is completely different in scope, size and scale and, in some sense, reflecting the vision of the honorable Prime Minister that if India has to develop, we will have to develop really fast to catch up with the lost years. If you recall, in his own work in Gujarat before he came into government in the centre, one of his important credos was Speed, Skill and Scale. And, in some sense, today’s programme, this initiative is reflective of all three. I am told that, since the 60s, the process of aero-physical mapping has been started, and over the years the country has been able to achieve about 15 lakh line kms of aero-geological surveys.

What we are embarking on is to do about 7.5 lakh line kms in the next 2 years. While, of course, the press release talks about 3 years, but we have just reset the target while waiting for the line to get connected. So there’s always a bonus in whatever goes wrong or whatever is delayed. Give me some time to review the progress of the project and the potential of the project, so now we shall do 7.5 lakh line kms in two years and not in 3 years. It was 27 lakh line kms in three years which will be done in 2 years. Wonderful!

So this particular module that we are doing today, four of these 12 blocks that have already started, that we have launched today will cover 7.5 lakh line kms and the balance 20 lakh line kms we will do in 2 years time, wonderful. So this 3 years schedule we will reduce to two, reflecting on speed. So we would have effectively done nearly 180% in 2 years more than what was done in the last 57 years, and that is what I believe is truly reflective of the honorable Prime Minister’s vision. I am delighted that there is also an element of cooperation and collaboration that has helped this programme become one of the most modern and finest programmes in the world.

I remember when the project was first brought to my attention and we had a review meeting somewhere in September 2016, I was told that the normal aero-geological surveys are at 500 meter spacing and at a height of a 120 meters. And in the course of discussions, I said let’s have some wider consultations. So we invited experts from around the world, both from government and from the private sector and during the course of interaction and I see some familiar faces here. And if you don’t mind gentlemen, if you can just stand up for a minute, I remember you telling me in that meeting. Were you there in that meeting? Were you there in that meeting? That’s right. You were the gentleman who told me that we should not do 500, we should now attempt to do 300 metre spacing, and the height should be reduced from 120 to 80.

And I must acknowledge and thank you for your kind suggestion and guidance. Because I am told that the 300 metre spacing and 80 metre height coupled with more modern remote sensors that are being used from these aircrafts will help India get a far better fix on the mineral wealth on the potential mineral, mining potential of different areas than what we have got in the past. We will be able to accelerate our mining programme. We will be able to do better mapping of the mineral wealth of the country.

And this closer spacing of 300 meters, lower a height of 80 metres, reflects the skillful way in which a project should be executed. Of course, I remember when we were discussing in September, there was also this point of this project can only be done or best be done in the summer months. If I recall, I was told that after that the monsoon will settle, summer or winter but the monsoon you can’t do it.

I suggested that let’s not delay this programme; otherwise, the original programme idea was we will start this programme towards the end of 2017. And the idea was that we should not delay it, we should try and cover as much distance. And what was the original plan you were trying to do this time about 50,000 sq. kms., in the original schedule which was indicated to me I was told we will do about 50,000 sq. kms. And I was saying why don’t we do 8 lakh sq. kms. And then we kept negotiating till we came down to 2 lakh sq. kms. to be done in the first round and then the balance 6 lakh sq. kms. over the next year and a half.

So I am very delighted that the Mines Ministry along with the Geological Survey of India has really taken up this project very sincerely, very fast with the best technologies that are available internationally and are doing it at scale at the kind of scale that this nation requires, so that we can start getting this mineral wealth to serve the people of India. As they say, you don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to become great.

And, in some sense, I believe that today’s launch of the Aero-Geological Survey and the National Aero-Geo Physical Mapping programme at this scale will help India develop its mining potential much faster, will help us serve the people of India with minerals mined in India, encourage industrialization, encourage the Make in India programme, help domestic industry through use of local raw material, something about which I have been continuously interacting with my officials. Our effort in the days to come will be to focus on two particular areas, (a) minerals which are of high value, many of them which are imported in large measure even now, gold for instance, and minerals which are imported in big numbers in India, required for domestic production, domestic industry. I think, unfortunately, in the past, our focus was only on the simpler minerals like iron ore or coal and we do a lot of satisfaction from the fact that we are adding to the declared reserves of the discovered reserves of coal or of iron.

While, of course, we are doing about 88 minerals in the country, but we still have a lot of import dependency. And I would urge the officials, both from the Geological Survey of India and from the Ministry to focus your entire attention towards expanding the scope of high value minerals which add to the national wealth, and minerals which are otherwise imported into the country. And I am sure that will help us to truly make India more self-reliant, self-sufficient in our needs and help us grow the economy much faster, help us provide jobs to the people of India.

And while we are doing all of this, one must appreciate that the wealth that is discovered out of this activity that you have launched today will go to serve the poorest of the poor in the country, both in terms of getting minerals from the ground. We will be creating jobs. We will be creating a whole ecosystem around the mining areas. The mineral wealth that comes out will add to industrial growth of the country. Simultaneously, it will save us precious foreign exchange, which will help us keep our rupee strong, which will help us make our economy stronger, keep inflation down. The royalties and auction values that we discover specially in the new regime that has been started by Shri Narendra Modi’s government, the auction amount and the royalty amounts will all go to the states where these minerals are found. And as we are aware, most mineral wealth in the country is focused around the eastern parts of India. And the eastern states are the states which really need a big fillip in their development activity so that they catch up with the rest of the country; forget catching up with the rest of the world, that’s obviously our final goal.

And, therefore, these areas will get more revenues and those revenues can go to serve the people of India, the people of these regions with better health, with better education. And, therefore, if each one of us takes it upon himself that what we are doing is not merely a job. The first and foremost message that I would like to give all my colleagues here including friends who have come from other parts of the world and who will be involved in different projects in the country. This activity what we are launching today is not merely a job, not merely a contract, not merely something that needs to be done and get paid for. What we are trying to do is uplift millions of people out of poverty. What we are trying to do is develop the nation so that that child living in that village in the remotest part of India can enjoy the fruits of development, can also have a better quality of life just like your or my children have in the cities of Mumbai or Delhi or wherever.

And if we can in our mind keep that missionary objective foremost, our job will be done far better, more efficiently, more passionately, with a lot more compassion. And I appeal to all my colleagues also, please do not, do not at all just focus on outlays, just focus on the project getting done or implemented in a particular, normal manner. What this country needs is extraordinary efforts and extraordinary results. And it’s always the ordinary people who come up with extraordinary performance. You don’t need anybody coming from Mars to tell us how we can do the job better. We know it. Each one of us knows what we can do and how we can do our job better. But we have to decide that we want to do it.

And I would urge each one of you, kindly look at this project with that sincerity, with that compassion, keep that man at the, that poor man living in that remote village in front of your eyes throughout the day, so that every activity you do will be focused to the welfare of that poor man, will be focused to a better future for that yet unborn child who is going to come into our country, who is going to live here, who is going to work here, and is going to remember each one of us in this room for what we leave behind as our contribution to this nation, this great nation.

I think 7 decades after independence; I believe we have matured. India as a nation has reached a stage where we should be able to really fast-track growth and development. And I am sure this work that we are initiating today will spur India towards our target of doubling the contribution of mineral production in India over the next, what would I say? 4 or 5 years, at best! And if that kind of scorching pace of growth can be brought into this sector that truly will be something which can make all of us proud of the work that we are doing, all of us proud of a legacy that we will leave behind. I compliment all the officials, consultants, companies who are involved in this exercise for the good work you have done, for the good work that you will do in the future.

Please don’t take the technology or the people behind it to task, it happens. It can happen at any point of time. And don’t worry that I am unhappy or anything. It’s just that I am a little unwell so I am not my usual ….. self this morning. And any case, technology has a habit of always letting you down at the last minute sometimes. So I just hope nobody takes these young boys to task on this little bit of glitch. But it was good. It was timely. We got the programme on very much in time and I am delighted that I could be amongst all of you this morning.

Thank you very much.

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