A Big Bonanza for Nagpur Now

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NAGPUR,THE ‘ORANGE CITY’ (FEW ORANGES CONSUMED LOCALLY AS MOST ARE EXPORTED) IS ALSO NEAREST TO INDIA’S CENTRE AND HENCE CALLED THE HEART OF INDIA.

Once known for the ‘night airmail flights’ on which you could fly from one metro to another at half rates by changing planes there after midnight, it appears to be in for a development bonanza, according to a popular international online daily Bloomberg.

Though it meant an hour or two of waiting, many less glamorous celebrities used it to

 save both money and daytime travel by using the service, enabling me to spend an hour or two with them at the airport – the only journalist to do so. The postal mails, now termed snail mail, is almost obsolete, but hundreds of courier services could used it if restarted.

Crowds would gather for actresses and ‘stars’ even at the unearthly hour of 1 to 2 a.m. but not other celebrities. It was thus that I could sit with K.A. Abbas, Sarojini Naidu’s brother Harindranath Chattopadhyay and former Union Health Minister Dr Sushila Nayyar (sister of Gandhiji’s PA, Pyarelal) among others, every time they passed through.

The Maintenance Command of Indian Air Force and several engineering colleges at Nagpur, to provide skilled work-force as defence men retire early. With coal available nearby (Western Coalfields is headquartered here) adequate thermal power could be provided. The Maharashtra government approved, more than 15 years ago, a Multi-modal International Hub Airport, Nagpur (MIHAN) project spread over on over 4300 hectares of land, around the city’s Sonegaon airport for a national cargo hub.
With these factors Nagpur would be the ideal place for location of at least a maintenance hub for aircraft, if not for all cargo. Boeing had even declared it would put up one.

And yet, even as land prices shot up, Nagpur’s development remained on paper. What these physical factors could not do , however, is being achieved by an administrative step — enforcement of GST (goods and services tax) from July 1, unifying India’s 29 states into a single market and eliminating hundreds of border checkposts collecting several provincial levies and becoming bottlenecks where trucks carrying goods all over are delayed sometimes for days. Delhi alone has 122 such posts, some of which witness queues of trucks three to four kilometres long.

Jacqueline Thorpe and P R Sanjai, who wrote the Bloomberg article, say a groundswell of investment from retailers and warehouses had started flowing into Nagpur, which already has better roads than Bangalore and many other cities. Most of them are now being converted into cement roads. The city is getting metro trains soon

The 218-billion-dollar Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, is investing $500 million in a joint venture with Mumbai-based IndoSpace Industrial & Logistics Parks to acquire logistics facilities in India and Nagpur may be included in its plans. The city already has a facility of the Container Corporartion of India, Transport Corporation of India and the Mahindras’ logistics centre.

The almost dormant Mihan was woken up with the decision by Yoga guru Ramdev Baba’s Patanjali Ayurved Ltd., India’s biggest producer of organic goods to locate its warehouse and manufacturing facilities there. It acted as a catalyist attracting others to Nagpur which was once the headquarters of Haldiram, the snack maker, before it split up.

The Congress has been opposing allocation of land in the Mihan project to Patanjali just because the Baba is a supporter of the Modi government. It is, obviously, not concerned about revival of Mihan or Nagpur’s development.

Vishvaraj Infrastructure Ltd. and Veolia Water SA of France are taking up a joint venture to make Nagpur the first city in India to provide a continuous supply of clean water to all residents including slum-dwellers. Vishvaraj is also building a new wholesale market for the city’s vendors of Nagpur’s famous oranges, clothes, and spices. The city was once a textile town, with two cloth mills and thousands of handloom weavers.

Nitin Gadkari, the Union Transport Minister, a Nagpurian who got elected from the city, is the moving spirit with these developments and will certainly reap the popularity they bring him, as will Devendra Fadnavis, the young Chief Minister of Maharashtra who was once Nagpur’s Mayor. A Nagpurian and owner of the city’s number one English daily, The Hitavada, was appointed the Governor of Assam a few months ago.

Geography, it is said, cannot be wished away. Nagpur, once the capital of ‘CP and Berar state’, was on its side. But it failed to make a the city a major industrial centre, as the political will has been lacking.

This is where Nitin Gadkari threw in his (considerable) weight. More about it later.

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