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Growth Question Looms Large Over Chandigarh

By Shreya Nandi
May 28, 2024 14:54 IST
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As Chandigarh braces for a fierce contest between Congress candidate Manish Tewari and the BJP's Sanjay Tandon, its industry leaders harbour a fervent wish: Replicate the success of the National Capital Region model in this Union Territory.

IMAGE: Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra with Manish Tewari and others during the Nyay Sankalp Sabha in Chandigarh, November 26, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

As the political landscape heats up in Chandigarh ahead of the Lok Sabha polling on June 1, its industry leaders -- seeking to revitalise the region's economic landscape -- harbour a fervent wish: Replicate the success of the National Capital Region (NCR) model in this Union Territory and its surrounding areas.

The NCR, comprising Delhi and its neighbouring districts in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana, stands as a testament to inter-state regional development.

Now, industrialists in Chandigarh believe that a similar success story can be retold in the UT by creating its own version: The Chandigarh Capital Region or perhaps a Greater Chandigarh Region.

But why this urgency? Industrial growth in Chandigarh has stagnated in recent years, hampered by the city's original blueprint, they argue.

The meticulously planned urban layout inadvertently restricted space for industry, allocating only 1,450 acres to small-scale enterprises in a bid to mitigate pollution.

But Chandigarh is no ordinary city. It wears multiple hats: Joint capital of Haryana and Punjab, a UT overseen by the Centre, and India's first planned post-Independence urban hub known for its ease of living.

Advocating for a Chandigarh Capital Region akin to the NCR, Rupinder Singh Sachdeva, chair of the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Punjab chapter, says the region besides Chandigarh, should comprise districts of Punjab (including SAS Nagar, Ropar, Patiala, and Fatehgarh Sahib), Haryana (Panchkula and Ambala), and Himachal Pradesh (Solan).

Investors flock to Chandigarh and Mohali, but land scarcity and inter-state complexities persist, he laments, suggesting "developing road infrastructure and widening of the roads would reduce intercity travel time. Many activities can be extended to adjoining districts. This will give a boost to regional connectivity and productivity."

Echoing Sachdeva's views, Anurag Gupta, chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industry, Chandigarh, underscores the interdependence of Chandigarh and its neighbouring cities -- Panchkula, Mohali, Zirakpur, Baddi/Nalagarh (Himachal Pradesh), Pinjore (Haryana), and Derabssi and Kharar (Punjab).

Movement of people and goods weaves an intricate web, necessitating a Regional Planning Board for the Greater Chandigarh Region (GCR), on the lines of the NCR Planning Board, for uniform and cohesive development of this region, he says.

"The primary objective of the (GCR) board would be to harmonise and improve facilities across the region and coordinate with local administrations.

This will help uniform application of government policies across Greater Chandigarh," Gupta said.

But the path forward requires a collective effort, with the Centre taking the lead, securing consensus among all the states and the UT involved.

Beyond greater integration with neighbouring districts, Chandigarh's business community clamours for improved air connectivity, renewed trade with Pakistan, and national-level subsidies to offset high export freight costs.

According to the CII, enhanced flight options would benefit not only the economy but also the convenience of residents, tourists, and businesses spanning Chandigarh, Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh.

In his vision document, Manish Tewari, the Congress candidate backed by the Aam Aadmi Party, has promised a radical shift: A 'city-state' model for Chandigarh with its own elected government.

Critics, however, fear that this move could strip Punjab's claim of its capital rights.

Tewari, however, has clarified that Chandigarh shall remain a UT and the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana.

'The problems of Chandigarh stem from lack of participation of its residents in running the affairs of Chandigarh beyond the remit of the Municipal Corporation, given that the city is run by the Ministry of Home Affairs and their representatives, Tewari recently posted on X.

'My objective is to ensure greater and effective participation of the residents of Chandigarh in managing the affairs, matters, concerns, and problems of Chandigarh.

'A legal architecture to enable this participation is imperative.'

As the Chandigarh Lok Sabha constituency braces for a fierce contest between Tewari and the Bharatiya Janata Party's Sanjay Tandon, the questions around the city's growth are moot.

"Chandigarh's growth slowed down in the past 10 years... Be it the state office or municipal corporation, approvals have been taking more time. It's a sorry state of affairs," said a Chandigarh-based industry official, requesting anonymity.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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Shreya Nandi
Source: source