The new city of Raipur and capital of Chhatisgarh was conceptualized by the first
government after the formation of the state and since then has been continued by the successive governments. The present chief minister of state Raman Singh has made it his dream project. The new city is located at a distance of about 25 kilometres from what is now known as old Raipur. So what is unique about this new city, a planned one along the lines chandigarh, Jamshedpur among others.
The development of Naya Raipur as a smart city was envisioned in the Naya Raipur Development Plan 2031, which was sanctioned in 2008. The city has been divided in forty sectors out of which twent one will be residential. Planning and development is being done by Naya Raipur Development authority(NRDA). The city is being dubbed as an ultramodern ‘green and smart city’.
The authorities claim that it would provide all modern amenities to its residents. New lakes are being developed which will have theme parks for residents and for recreation and leisure activities and also attract tourists. The official also claims that that gardens and playgrounds will be spread across the city and will be linked together via a pedestrian corridor. The city is being developed in about eight thousand hectares and in three layers. But seventeen years down the line still the first layer work is on. Planning for the second layer is still to begin. Authorities claim that 130 kms of road has already been laid and all the streets have LED lights. As I moved around the city its true that you don’t see any electricity poles and wires hanging. All the wiring is underground. There are solar power stations, BRT and others facilities. NRDA also claims that while acquiring the land they did not disturb the villages but rather included them in the first layer itself except one village from where people were removed and compensated.
A ghost city
But the problem is that where are the people for whom this infrastructure is being created. The houses built are empty, the streets are empty. Except the activity that takes place in the new mantralay and other government offices that have shifted there you don’t find people.
When confronted with this question the Chief executive Officer of NDRA Rajat Kumar says “that the first challenge was to create city level infrastructure. The government’s biggest challenge is to do and proof. you can’t prove it to people with animated diagram. The government setup has shifted here and government housing is almost complete”. Obviously the government servants have no choice but to come to office. But still they are commuting from their homes in old Raipur. And why people are not coming to stay in New Raipur? Is the new city is just being built for the elites and higher ups of the society. When put the same question to CM Raman Singh he accepts that yes its very difficult for people for emotional reason.
He says “to answer about Naya Raipur; It is being developed as an integrated smart city for the future, which can provide high quality life to a much larger population than Raipur. Migration of people from one city to another is not an economic decision, but an emotional one. For someone who has spent their lives, built their family, their home, seen their kids grow up in Raipur… It is difficult to leave those memories behind. Some of the housing colonies are fully occupied in Naya Raipur and with the new dreams of the new generation, I am sure Naya Raipur will soon be populated(Read the interview separately).
The governments’s defence is that people don’t move in one or twos. They like to move together citing the example of chandigarh which took almost thirty years for it to prosper. But they also accept that about 7000 houses built for government officials sixty percent of them are still vacant. So what is the government’s projection of making nayaRaipur populated. Rajat Kumar says “we are looking at a population of one lakh by 2020, 3.5 lakh by 2025 and 5 and half lakhs by 2031 which was the part of original master plan and we are trying to speed up things”.
But as you drive down from the old Raipur to the new one you hardly find any activity happening on that stretch of about 25 kilometres. In between you just find roads lined with trees or farmlands. Police headquarter and the secretariat has already shifted to naya Raipur and people feel that government is out of public reach. Once all major offices shift to the new capital, it is likely to widen the distance. So the question that begs the answer is whether people come first or city comes first? In the existing city people are there and planning is done accordingly but in the case of naya Raipur planning was primary and people are secondary.
Town planners are also questioning the same. Manish Pilliwar, architect and town planner, says that “infrastructure is being created but people are not willing to move. We spread the city as it grows and develop peri-urban areas. But if we look at naya Raipur they started from the farthest stand. And also old Raipur has been neglected over the years. So there is no connect between the two. And in the ultimate analysis any investment which is not giving benefit to the people is not considered its worth”.
Also while you plan your city the livability factor is the most crucial part. There is always a site suitability based on various parametres which is given weightage. Apart from physical aspect there is livability index that needs to be considered. Was that ignored in the case of Naya Raipur. A view that is concurred by Pilliwar. He says “livability index is a crucial factor for people to migrate. And there are several index to measure that. Water is big challenge in NayaRaipur. They are finding it difficult to maintain even landscape. While planning authorities did not go for best technologies. It was not that the technology was not available while this planning was being done. A wrong site comes up with many constraints and you will keep struggling”.
It is being claimed that naya Raipur is based on creating a healthy and eco-friendly system to create a state of the art urban infrastructure to promote a modern lifestyle. It will also have educational and service sector hub. A central business district is also being developed. But the question is for whom?
A new city or a suburb is developed following extreme pressures on the existing city. In Raipur, on the other hand, many housing units are waiting for occupants and people just do not want to migrate to new one. There is a danger that Naya Raipur might just become administrative capital populated largely by government officials and staff of private companies as and when they come up. There is no integrated and simultaneous development of peripheral areas. Though being dubbed as a city of future there is a danger that it would be a disadvantage for the people as the government offices will move away from the people.