A new move(ment)

Jul 2006 | Comments Off on A new move(ment)

Readers may recall that Coordinates printed Implementation Guidelines of the Indian National Map Policy (NMP) in June. We present here some more observations

License raj

july06-photo-18S D Baveja

I welcome Survey of India (SOI) efforts to issue clarificatory guidelines on NMP in a year’s time.

Availability of OSM sheets

I had hoped that by now Open Series Map would be available but regret to point out that but for inauguration ceremony for release of one map of the OSM Series our dream for getting OSM sheets are still very far away to be realized. Why can’t private agencies be engaged to produce them within Survey of India (SOI) Campus and make them available to general public.

Layout of OSM sheets

A lot of midnight oil seems to have been burnt on OSM lay out of sheets as give in Annexure ‘A’ but the methodology evolved is quite cumbersome for a common man to understand as the 1:1m scale base for lay out being different i.e. 40×40 index for SOI map sheets numbering & 40×60 indexing for OSM sheet numbering and 24 alphabet subdivisions.

In fact the easiest way was to retain the numbering of SOI Toposheet Nos. as they are and suffix the internationally well known after SOI sheet no. i.e. zone no. 53A/12-43N it, as the dimensions of 1:50,000 scale & 1:250,000 scale maps have been kept the same i.e. 15’x15’ & 10×10 this would avoid confusion.

Licensing of Digital Topographical data is likely to take us back to License Raj and is a step backward as Digital maps are being supplied only to bona fide users with permission though SOI and specially when records as per MTR are being maintained of each user. It would be worse than present filling up of forms 57 (a) etc. and like NRSA, users could be made to give certificate or follow laid down conditions as being done by NRSA.

To elaborate this point further let us examine the present scenario and the scenario as result of proposed guidelines

Existing scenario

The existing maps of SOI are available in Analogue form and Digital form,

The digital maps of entire country were made available only after following the procedure as applicable for restricted data ie. completing the formalities of o57 (a) form of SOI. The entire digital data for restricted and non restricted area has been made restricted.

Analogue maps for restricted areas are made available by following the procedure of completing form o57 (a). Analogue maps for non restricted area are made available to the general public on SOI sale counters or authorized distributors without completing any formalities but their export is prohibited.

Proposed scenario

In the present OSM series of digital maps, licensing procedures are being introduced. This licensing procedure appears to be the same as it was for restricted map, earlier and will restrict the availability of digital maps for general public.

Analogue maps for OSM for entire country shall be made available to general public irrespective to Restricted or Non restricted, area but when is a million questions.

In view of above it appears that the procedures for getting the digital data, even for OSM are made restricted as one has to get licensed key/ ID.


1) In the Para 3 it is mentioned that digitization of analogue map is prohibited. In the present scenario where all data by individuals or companies are collected in digital form can only be integrated with existing analogue map after theme specific part digitization only or fresh surveys which is time taking. So the digitization of the theme specific portion of the analogue maps should be permitted. Proposed Digitization of part of analogue maps shall not only be helpful to the users but it will be very beneficial to the researchers and academic institutions.

2) Layout of the OSM maps is similar to UTM sheets lay out which closely resemble with International sheet numbers. It should have been more convenient if the sheet numbering is given similar to our topographical sheet numbers but with a tag indicating UTM zone number say 53 j-43n or 53j/12- 43n or 53j/12/4 -43n where 43n indicate the zone number 43 north. This may be easier for the users who are conversant with existing topographic sheet numbers.

3) It is mentioned in the contents of OSM, that contours and height shall not be shown on the maps falling in restricted area. In order to follow the
restriction policy for restricted area, contours may be of vital importance but few spot heights could be given on maps so that the general idea of the topography could be seen if the map belongs to restricted area.

4) Regarding height information on OSM it should be made clear that the heights are in MSL term, and Datum is WGS 84.

5) Shall Map Transaction Registry (MTR) be applicable for analogue map users? We think that all OSM maps in analogue form shall be available to all users at all sale counters with out having unique transaction ID.

6) Can value addition on the maps on different scales other than SOI published scales i.e. 1:250,50,25,10 K, be done without licensing? The earlier policy was that the part of map in the unrestricted areas could be published in the books but not the full map.



july06-photo-19NK Agrawal
Former Director, Survey Training Institute, Survey
of India, Hyderabad

one major concern published in July’05 issue of Coordinates has been addressed. It is mentioned in the guidelines that registration of users and licensing is required in respect of digital data/maps. This by implication means that it may not be necessary for hard copies. It, however, has not been made absolutely clear that it will be so. It appears that none of the other concerns have been addressed.

It has again been emphasized in Para 9 of guidelines that previous instructions issued from time to time will hold good, but for these modifications. This clearly indicates that NMP and the guidelines are thoroughly incomplete as existing or previous map policy or instructions are not available in public domain. It will be in order if these previous instructions are compiled and made available on the website.

Para 10(ii) General- “highest accuracy” needs to be defined in quantitative terms.

Annexure 1A of NMP appears as Annexure B in Guidelines. It appears that it has been modified. It is noted that it suffers from the same shortcomings. A few are discussed here:

a) Limits of cultivation was appearing in NMP but it is omitted form the guidelines.

b) Transmission lines have not been explained or elaborated.

c) Chimney, monuments, brick kiln etc. are missing.

d) Drains, water pipe lines etc. have not been mentioned.

e) “All bungalows” is vague and needs to defined/elaborated.

f) “Relative heights” is missing from item 7 “Relief”.

g) Coastal features like High Water Line, Low Water Line are missing.

h) Mountain features like Cliff, Sheet rocks etc. are missing

It would therefore be proper if list of details/features, which should not appear on OSM series maps is given instead of the other way round. It is suggested that the authorities should consult the booklet “Instructions to Plane-Tablers” published by Survey of India in order to prepare a comprehensive list of details to be shown or not to be shown as the case may be so that such omissions do not occur.

It is mentioned as a footnote that “Contours and Heights” will not be available as per MOD instructions. Restricted zone for OSM maps will then have to be defined. Does it mean that there will be no contours and heights in OSM maps representing a very large portion of territory of India?

UTM projection has been decided for India though TM or LCC would have been more suitable. Even if UTM is decided its grid values and ticks should be shown on OSM maps.

Para 2 d – Export of all maps/data on scale larger than 1:250,000 are prohibited as per orders of 1963. Should this not be revised in view of Internet and various websites such as goggle? Should we not be more realistic?

It is again pointed out that there should be serious reconsideration on producing maps in WGS 84.



july06-photo-20K V Ravindran
Former Scientist,
kvravindran@gmail. com

The announcement of the guidelines for NMP has dampened the euphoria generated last year by the NMP declaration. The skeptics have been proved right once again. While announcing the NMP last year, the government had admitted that “the technological changes around the world rendered many features of the existing map policy redundant and anachronistic “and” its continuance tended to impede free flow of information and engendered high opportunity costs for a developing economy”. Unfortunately the guidelines do not reflect this concern. It was hoped that with the bifurcation of the maps into OSM and DSM series, the OSM maps needed for civilian purposes would be easily available without much hassle. The guideline document shows that even OSM series of maps will not be free from the fetters of bureaucracy and overplayed security obsessions.

The provision that strictly forbids the digitization of SOI analog maps will put a serious impediment to increasing geo-spatial technology applications in which SOI maps are used as base for projection and geo-referencing. People have been clandestinely digitizing SOI maps for their projects and were hoping that this restriction would be lifted , but their hopes now being razed, they will be forced to continue it stealthy.

Maintenance of Map Transaction Registry (MTR) would also put restrictions on the free exchange of data between collaborating organizations and even within the same organization working from different centers. When the data is already classified as OSM the logic of again restricting its free use is difficult to comprehend.

The document says that the SOI encourages value addition. But here again the provisions are highly restrictive. Submitting ‘a business model indicating the products to be generated and marketing strategy’ and executing an MOA with SOI would be necessary for large organizations and industry, but it would dampen the initiative and innovation of small users and individuals who contribute greatly to the technological advancements.

Exaggerated security concern seems to be the main problem afflicted to Indian mind. In the world today with the easy accessibility to high resolution satellite pictures, no information can be kept secret. Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi’s statement that the satellite images of the country’s defence installations displayed on the Google Earth website do not pose a threat to the Indian Air Force is a pointer in this regard. Then, how the free use of maps which are classified as OSM can impact our security?


A misnomer

july06-photo-211Pramod K Singh
Institute of Rural Management,
Anand, India

A NMP should encompass all the geospatial data products: survey maps, satellite imagery, aerial photographs, and various thematic maps etc. It should be able to specify role of all the major stakeholders. It should be futuristic, should encompass and promote technological innovations and should reflect present and future paradigm of development. However, the present NMP revolves around the survey maps of SOI. It puts SOI on the driver’s seat and role of other stakeholders are merely a value adder. What about the huge amount of spatial information developed over the years by various other government departments and private sector? In all, the NMP is nothing more than guidelines of dissemination for SOI’s topo maps. The name NMP seems to be a misnomer.

The second objective of the NMP is ‘to promote the use of geospatial knowledge and intelligence through partnerships and other mechanisms by all sections of the society’. However, both the policy and the guidelines are silent about partnership process with the major stakeholders dealing with spatial information. The MNP mandates SOI to decide issues of liberalizing access of spatial data to user groups. Other spatial data creating organizations have to abide by the instructions of SOI.

Committing by the SOI to have available all information at all SOI offices and on the website is a commendable step. However, it does not mention the time frame. SOI must specify the time frame of data availability area as well as scale-wise.

The initial press announcement of May 19, 2005 had mentioned that aerial photographs, after masking of vulnerable areas/vulnerable points would be freely available for processing and project generation. It was also mentioned that private agencies would be permitted to carry out aerial surveys in all parts of the country using Public Domain Datum, provided they be registered and accredited by Survey of India. However,
both the earlier policy document and the recent guidelines are silent on aerial photography or aerial photographs.

Section 3 (c) of the recent guidelines mentions that “unauthorised copying and distribution of SOI digital data are strictly prohibited”. But what this copying means, is not clear, because once an organization is licensed by SOI it should be able to make copies for its organizational use.

Section 4 of the recent guidelines states that digital data will be available in single/ multiple/ commercial licensing for general use, value adding and marketing. At the same time it warns that encryption technology has been incorporated into the digital products. The original data will be destroyed if the data were subject to copying activities. The issue here is how any organization can make use of the data in order to add value to it unless decryption key is provided for various GIS analysis and value addition.

Section 6 (iv) of the recent guidelines mentions differential pricing of SOI products with concession to universities, research organizations and deserving NGO’s, which is a welcome step.

The guidelines also mentions that contours and heights will not be available in restricted zones as per MOD,s instructions. In the Twenty First Centaury, when high resolution satellite-derived contour information is freely available to potential enemies, 5-10 meter contours may not be of strategic importance for our country. Considering the importance of contours especially for water resource management and urban planning, 5- 10 meter contour information may be made available for the entire country.

India has a very long tradition of systematically collecting spatial data through various organizations at national and state levels, creating a broad and powerful installed base. However, the institutional aspects of the same installed base create lock-in effects. These institutions have historically acted in a compartmentalized manner with limited sharing of data or applications not only for citizens and the private sector, but also for other government agencies. This reflects a poor appreciation of information dissemination by these organizations. The current NMP neither has spirit nor regulations to break these lock-in effects.

The NMP along with legislation on right to information in India is a paradigm shift towards openness and access to information. However, these are not going to pay much dividend in terms of sharing of spatial information amongst all the major stakeholders unless there is change in the very culture of sharing with each stakeholder. A more comprehensive
‘National Spatial Policy (NSP)’ covering all important sources of spatial information along with a vibrant NSDI is need of the hour. The NSP must provide ways ahead to NSDI.

My coordinates
Mark your calendar
May 09 TO DECEMBER 2009

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