By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 22 Jul: Dehradun is rather unfortunate to be the ‘interim’ capital of Uttarakhand. As the demand to make Gairsain the permanent capital of Uttarakhand continues to be an emotional and political issue for many in the state, Dehradun has to pay the price of missing funds from various external and central sources meant for state capitals. Neither of the two major political parties, namely the BJP and the Congress, has the courage to take a clear stand on the issue and, therefore, Dehradun continues to bear the load of being a state capital but also continues to suffer lack of adequate funds that could have been used to develop the infrastructure that is considered essential for a state capital.
Readers will recall that, more than a decade ago, an amount of Rs 100 crores had been granted to Uttarakhand for infrastructure development in the state capital. However, as the issue of the permanent state capital still remains unresolved, this amount lapsed without utilisation of a single rupee.
According to bureaucratic sources as well as independent experts, at least Rs 10,000 crores would be required for creating just the bare minimum infrastructure for the state capital if Gairsain is made the state capital. So far, only a Vidhan Sabha building and some other buildings have been constructed there at the cost of Rs 124 crores. However, if Gairsain was to be made the state capital, a huge amount of land would be required to be acquired. Then, about Rs 10,000 crores, at least, would be required to construct buildings of various departments, the secretariat, directorates, schools and colleges besides the two big buildings that exist there.
The road access to Gairsain from Karnprayag in Garhwal and to Dwarahat in Kumaon is not wide enough to bear the load of regular traffic. There is huge scarcity of water and there is no rail or air connectivity to Gairsain, making it even more difficult for Central leaders and other dignitaries to regularly visit the town in a convenient manner.
However, as it is an emotional issue, none of the two major parties has the courage to take a practical stand on the issue so that it can be resolved. As a result, Dehradun is still lacking funds to create necessary infrastructure for a state capital.
Funds had been made available by the Centre to construct a permanent Vidhan Sabha building in Dehradun. Even the land was identified on the Raipur-Thano Road near the international cricket stadium in Dehradun, but there is no further progress for the past four years in this regard. The Secretariat too is functioning in a very constricted campus on Subhash Road as this was the venue of an ITI before the formation of the state capital. However, it is also not able to expand due to lack of space.
Now, while Dehradun has seen a huge population explosion in the past 19 years, it faces regular traffic jams in almost all parts of the city and throughout the day! It is not a sleepy town anymore as one can witness regular traffic flow even around midnight! Unfortunately, most major roads in the city that connect the city from north to the south and from east to the west are narrow and remain choked for a major part of the day! Though, the city requires at least 15 flyovers, it just has five and unfortunately all the five of them serve only a limited purpose because of faulty design and poor planning. For example, the Balliwala flyover is just a two lane bridge and because of a spate of fatal accidents on the flyover, major traffic still moves from under the flyover, rendering it useless. The same is the case of ISBT flyover. Initially, the ISBT flyover was planned as a four lane Y shape flyover, with a two way Y shape elevated road to connect the flyover with the Haridwar Bypass. However, when constructed, the flyover turned out to be just a four lane simple flyover connecting Saharanpur Road to Majra. However, due to the Inter State Bus Terminal (ISBT) being posited just adjacent to the flyover, those coming from the Haridwar Bypass towards Saharanpur or Delhi Road were obstructed by the buses exiting the ISBT leading to constant traffic jams for a major part of the day. To resolve this, a Y shaped addition to the flyover was constructed, but no relief was provided to the commuters coming from Delhi or Saharanpur and moving to Haridwar Bypass and the traffic jams continue at the ISBT. There are three more choke points on the Haridwar Bypass between the Kargi Chowk and the Ajabpur Flyover, which means there is hardly any advantage of the flyover. There are a T- Point and two crossings (the Mata Mandir Road-Bengali Kothi Road and Mothrowala Road crossing), which witness heavy traffic throughout the day and traffic jams in the evenings. But these crossings and T-points don’t even have traffic signals and no traffic police is present to manage the traffic. As one approaches the Ajabpur flyover and crosses it, one finds a traffic jam at Rispana Bridge and has to wait for long even to turn left, which is a free turn at Rispana Chowk. Ideally, the Ajapur Chowk ought to have been constructed in the form of an elevated road from Kargi Chowk to cover the Rispana Bridge with enough legs to accept incoming traffic in between. Similarly, the Mohkampur Railway overbridge ought to have begun from Jogiwala Chowk so that there is no traffic jam there. The Ballupur Flyover is no different, though it is still much more useful than other present flyovers in the city!
A flyover is required over the Railway line in Pathribagh to connect with Racecourse, another multi legged elevated road is required between St Thomas’ School up to beyond the Clock Tower towards Chakrata Road and towards Rajpur Road. A flyover is required at Mata Mandir Road over the Railway Crossing and this can begin from Bengali Kothi Road and also admit traffic from the Haridwar Bypass, which can reduce congestion at Rispana Bridge. Another flyover is required from Behl Chowk to Dilaram Chowk. One is required at Saharanpur Chowk that can go up to the Railway Station.
Fortunately, one elevated road is being planned from Rispana Bridge to the Nagal Bridge near Rajpur Road over the Rispana River while another elevated road is being planned over Bindal River beginning from Patel Nagar to Hathibarkala on Rajpur Road. However, both these roads are South to North roads but no wide enough road links western part of the city to the eastern part of the city. It however remains to be seen if these planned projects really take off or are nipped in the bud. In addition, interlinking roads are needed. Widening of many major roads is also required but the government lacks the will to carry it out. A long proposed widening of Arhat Bazaar has also been put in the deep freeze for now!
Dehradun had a good district hospital which is now a medical college hospital. So it needs a district hospital, too. A proposal to construct another building at Coronation Hospital and another hospital in Harrawala will not fulfil the requirements of a district hospital. The city also lacks public parks, public libraries, art galleries and large public auditoriums! Any smart city and a state capital must have a good reliable public transport system but Dehradun does not have one! The government announced a metro project in Dehradun but remains hesitant to move forward on this project!
Dehradun is one of the cities selected for the Smart City project but it appears that the state government is more interested in creating a new smart satellite township from the funds rather than improving the infrastructure of the existing city. In the past, too, Dehradun has failed badly to utilise Central funds granted to it first under the JNNURM scheme and then Amrit Scheme. Now that the government is planning to bring a strict Benami property act under which it claims such properties would be seized, there is an opportunity to have a land bank in Dehradun and other cities of Uttarakhand. However, this can happen only if the Benami Property Act is really implemented in right earnest as lot of people in Dehradun – many of them senior government officials and politicians – have benami properties in the city and its surroundings!