MADHYA PRADESH

Smarting city

  • Harsh realty
    Harsh realty: An unoccupied shopping complex built by SADA in the magnet city | P. Prajapati

A magnet city in Gwalior, meant to ease Delhi's population burden, fails to live up to the hype

  • “We have all the infrastructure in place [to make west Gwalior a smart city], but a fresh impetus is urgently needed”- Jai Singh Kushwaha, former chairman, Special Area Development Authority

In 1989, the National Capital Region Planning Board, in its regional plan-2001, declared Gwalior, Hisar, Patiala, Kota and Bareilly as possible alternatives to ease the pressure of population in Delhi. Gwalior took precedence, especially during Atal Bihari Vajpayee's rule—the city was the prime minister's hometown. Soon, about 30,000 hectares in west Gwalior were earmarked for the project. The Madhya Pradesh government constituted the Special Area Development Authority (SADA), which built a network of more than 200km of inside roads, 86km of six-lane arterial roads and sewage lines in the residential areas. A water treatment plant with a capacity of 21 million litres a day was set up and 600 acres were allotted for a new airport in Malipura.

The 'counter magnet city' was expected to stem the migration from less developed areas of Madhya Pradesh to the capital. However, after 14 years of planning and with an investment of more than Rs500 crore, the city, 300km from Delhi, resembles a ghost town.

“People do not want to come here in the absence of proper transport and security. They don't want to leave the original city limits,” says Jai Singh Kushwaha, former SADA chairman.

Of the total area, more than 14,500 hectares is forest, about 9,000 hectares belong to residents of 36 villages in the area, and the government owns about 6,500 hectares.

Says Nikhil Purohit, a dental surgeon in Gwalior: “My family was convinced of buying a flat in Sahara City (a part of the region developed by Sahara). We invested some money, but pulled out after the project failed to take off. The area is like the ravines of Chambal, where certain rural communities rule the roost. It is impossible for any urban man to live there. There is nothing except some educational institutes. The railway station and airport are 20km and 30km away, respectively. The nearest market and cinema hall are 12km away.”

Sameer Singh, a lawyer who owns a plot in the area, says Gujjars are very powerful in the region. “There have been reports that people faced extortion and were bullied by some villagers in the area,” he says. “Ordinary people are afraid of going there as the only police station, in Tighra village, is located on the extreme end of the city. I wanted to construct a house on the plot but there is nothing around it.”

V.K. Sharma, chief executive officer of SADA, does not agree. “It is wrong to say that people are not interested in coming here because of the local Gujjar lords. In fact, because of the huge rise in land prices, the musclemen and trouble mongers have become property dealers,” he says. “The project's biggest drawback is the lack of employment. About 70 to 80 per cent of our houses have been sold but people do not want to live here. The government said many national-level offices will be relocated here, but it never happened. A new town takes some time. In the next five years, you will see it brimming with activity.”

Such assurances, however, have failed to impress government offices. “We allotted 22 acres to six prominent departments, including excise, revenue and transport, but they have not built offices here even after eight years,” says Kushwaha. “They prefer to work from their cramped offices in old Gwalior. Now they are opposing the construction of the commissioner's office here. There is a section of bureaucrats which does not want to shift offices in this area.”

He says west Gwalior could have been one of the smart cities Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanted to build. “We have all the infrastructure in place, but a fresh impetus is urgently needed,” he says. “I have proposed a new concept of making a metropolitan area of more than 75,000 hectares by integrating the nearby districts.”

Private builders, too, seem to regret their investments in the area. Only a few security guards inhabit the 107-acre Sahara City. The 375-acre Mantri City, built by Mumbai-based Sunil Mantri Realty Limited, is lifeless, save for a few security guards who protect its lavish office and a few other structures.

Says Ramcharan Singh, a retired Central Industrial Security Force constable at Mantri City: “Though we provide round-the-clock security, few people come here. I think the long distance might be the reason.” Ramcharan lives in Tighra, close to his workplace, and is happy that his land (six bigha) is no longer being eyed by investors.

The only completed residential complex built by SADA is in Sojana village. Says villager Sitaram Singh: “Three hundred flats have been ready for some time and we keep hearing that people will soon occupy them. But no one is coming.”

While planning, it was estimated that more than 2,000 houses would be built every year and, by 2005, there would be 68,579 residential structures, says an official draft. “Real demand for housing would be from the economic opportunities that would emerge in the city. It is estimated that housing would need to cater to approximately 1,74,000 households by 2010,” reads the draft.

Today, there are 1,200 finished houses, most of them unoccupied. Sadly, the city has become a magnet that failed to attract.

Land of no returns
* The National Capital Region Planning Board, in its regional plan-2001, declared Gwalior, Hisar, Patiala, Kota and Bareilly as possible alternatives to ease the pressure of population in Delhi.
* The Special Area Development Authority built a network of more than 200km of inside roads, 86km of six-lane arterial roads and sewage lines.
* A water treatment plant with a capacity of 21 million litres a day was set up and 600 acres were allotted for a new airport in Malipura.
* Of the total area, more than 14,500 hectares is forest, about 9,000 hectares belong to residents of 36 villages in the area, and the government owns about 6,500 hectares.
* The project failed to create jobs as plans to relocate many government offices here did not materialise.
* The Gujjars are powerful in the area and there have been reports that people faced extortion and were bullied by some villagers.
* Only a few security guards inhabit land developed by builders such as Sahara.
* While planning, it was estimated that more than 2,000 houses would be built every year and, by 2005, there would be 68,579 residential structures, says an official draft.
* It was estimated that housing would need to cater to approximately 1,74,000 households by 2010.
* Today, there are 1,200 finished houses, most of them unoccupied.

This browser settings will not support to add bookmarks programmatically. Please press Ctrl+D or change settings to bookmark this page.
Topics : #Delhi | #Madhya Pradesh

Related Reading

    Show more