His modest office is on the third floor of The Ashok hotel in Delhi's diplomatic enclave, overlooking the green vista of the sprawling Nehru Park. Amid the books and periodicals that fill the shelves and cabinet tops is a brass model of a railway engine. It is the driver of his project.
The Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation that Talleen Kumar heads was conceived as an afterthought to the Indian Railways' plan of setting up a Dedicated Freight Corridor from Dadri near Delhi to the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust at Nhava Sheva near Mumbai.
“The railways wanted a track for seamless transport of freight, and then, the government began thinking of developing industry on either side of the tracks. With industrialisation came the idea of having townships, and that's how we are here today,” says Kumar.
The DMICDC was formed in 2008 and its mandate, though humungous, is simple: create eight state-of-the-art millennial cities, ushering in the biggest wave of planned urbanisation in recent decades.
“Urbanisation is the future. Unless we plan for that future, we are going to find ourselves in a terrible mess,” says Kumar. His cities are a distant dream right now, with the process of land acquisition still ongoing. But, in his mind, these cities are already standing tall, their buildings piercing the clouds, while deep underground, a well-laid network of utilities ensures the foundation of a robust civic infrastructure and a digital master-planning.
Each of these cities will initially be developed as special purpose vehicles between the Centre and the states. States have to get the land, the Centre plans the blueprint and trunk infrastructure. Then, they invite investors for industry as well as setting up residential complexes.
The biggest of these cities is Dholera in Gujarat, with a 920sq km expanse. The developable area, however, is around 540sq km, given that the rest falls under the Coastal Regulation Zone limits. “Right now, we are developing a 22.5sq km nucleus,” says Kumar. “By 2019, the first phase of Dholera will be ready.”
Another little township, on the Shendri Bidkin industrial node in Maharashtra, is also quietly progressing. “We have acquired most of the land for this 40sq km city. By the end of 2019, you will see some level of inhabitation here, too,” says Kumar.
But it will be Dadri in Uttar Pradesh that emerges as one of the biggest hubs in the country, he says. “Dadri will be part of the western DFC as well as the eastern DFC from Amritsar to Kolkata.”
When will Kumar's dream of vertical millennial cities be finally realised? “A greenfield city takes 25 to 30 years to develop,” he says.
The key nodes
* Dadri-Noida-Ghaziabad (Uttar Pradesh)
* Manesar-Bawal (Haryana)Khushkhera-Bhiwadi-Neemrana (Rajasthan)
* Jodhpur-Pali-Marwar (Rajasthan)Peetampur-Dhar-Mhow (Madhya Pradesh)
* Ahmedabad-Dholera (Gujarat) Dighi Port (Maharashtra)
* Shendre-Bidkin (Maharashtra)
* In addition, three “early bird projects” have been included in the DMIC master plan—Integrated Industrial Township, Greater Noida, Vikram Udyogpuri near Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh) and Global City, Gurgaon.
* There are also plans for new airports at Dholera and Kotkasim, Rajasthan.