'GCR will be a catalyst in our development journey': Chhattisgarh CM Baghel

Sustainability and safeguarding the environment will be at its core, he said

57-Bhupesh-Baghel Bhupesh Baghel | Sanjay Ahlawat

Q Raipur, including Nava Raipur, along with the twin cities of Durg and Bhilai have organically merged and seem to have potential to become a greater capital region.

A More than 40 per cent of the urban population in the state is concentrated in the eight urban local bodies (Raipur, Mana Camp, Birgaon, Kumhari, Bhilai Charoda, Bhilai, Risali and Durg―all in Raipur and Durg districts), which can be merged into the greater capital region (GCR). Or, a conurbation plan can also be created with a nodal agency looking after the development. The State Planning Commission has already prepared its recommendations in this direction and a task force was formed, which has submitted its report to the respective departments for their views and actionable outcome.

Q What is your vision and plan for a formal merger of these urban areas?

A Chhattisgarh is a mineral-rich state with surplus power. Our income is not dependent on agriculture, we also have large-scale industries. To open a new avenue of income for the citizens of the state, it would be prudent to have one large urban agglomeration, which shall bring in the service industry, specifically IT and banking, for diversification of the modes of economic activities. Hence, to tap the potential of urban development, unlock the value of the land and for faster development of Chhattisgarh, the State Planning Commission was instructed by my office to work in this direction. Their recommendations are being reviewed.

Q So, is a GCR on the anvil?

A We are thinking in the direction of having a GCR, which shall capture the hidden potential of this region. However, we would have to be cautious enough to not convert the lush green area we have into a concrete jungle. Hence, all steps in this direction shall have sustainability and safeguarding the environment at its core. We are currently one of the greenest states in India, and we wish to maintain that status while we urbanise.

Q Do you think the GCR could change the perception of Chhattisgarh being a rural, tribal state?

A That is a wrong perception of Chhattisgarh and we don’t wish to focus our energies in changing such perceptions. However, we intend to synergise our energies in bringing new and upcoming industries and technologies in the state like IT, banking and other service-based startups. They need various types of infrastructure, policies and human resource for efficient functioning and my government is already working in this direction. The GCR shall surely provide impetus in such activities and it shall act as a catalyst in our development journey.

Q You have already taken many steps to strengthen the rural and agriculture-based economy. Will your next focus be rapid urban development?

A Our focus has never been just on the development of rural or agriculture-based economy. We have made exemplary developments in the urban domain as well. Our cleanliness initiatives have fetched us the title of the cleanest state for three consecutive years. Our initiatives like Narwa-Garwa-Ghurwa-Badi (for farmers), providing better medical infrastructure and doorstep delivery of government services have brought laurels to the state. Our belief is in the development of services and infrastructure that brings direct benefits to the citizens.

Q You recently announced a light metro project between Nava Raipur and Durg. Should it be considered a step towards possible merger of these cities?

A A considerable proportion of population commutes on this route daily for their educational and professional needs, and for work. We believe it would not only reduce their travel time, but also reduce the burden on their pocket. Therefore, this decision has nothing to do with the merger of cities and you can consider it to be an inter-city transport service, which we feel is the need of the hour.

Q What will be the benefits of the proposed 92km, six-lane expressway between Durg and Arang?

A It would be a mistake to see this just as a 92km stretch of road. It is a development project that would impact around 40 per cent of our urban population, and shall also improve the movement of goods in and out of the state. This stretch passes through eight urban local bodies and is near one of the largest steel plants in India―the Bhilai steel plant. So, I believe it is not just a road project, but an infrastructure project that would better connect the growth centres of Chhattisgarh and unlock their hidden potential.