Orange booms: Big dreams come true in small town
NAGPUR: It’s no more the poor country cousin of Mumbai it was a few years ago. For all outward purposes, Nagpur is a transformed town: a wannabe metropolis with plush showrooms, a couple of multiplexes, a sizeable noveau riche, an informed younger generation, hi-tech hospitals, smooth roads, flyovers and thick green cover.
Says Sanjay Arora of Shells Advertising, "The lifestyle of Nagpurians has changed dramatically over the last few years. And it is the Big Bazaar and the Pyramid, among others, which are driving these changes."
"The Orange City is in take-off mode," remarks an excited Vilas Kale, president of the Vidarbha Economic Development Council (VED). Its central location, good infrastructure and rail, road and air connectivity are among a number of factors drawing people here. "We are witnessing a steady migration of trade and commerce into the city."
Fuelled by the infrastructure boom and riding on ambitious projects like the Multi-Modal International Airport and Cargo Hub (MIHAN), the city is slowly shaping as the growth engine of Vidarbha, with a special economic zone, an IT park and a health hub about to be developed.
Also, if the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation clears a proposal, Nagpur may soon have its airport upgraded to international status.
Gone are the days when an outsider stepping on to the dusty avenues felt bored to spend even a day in the city. "It's a boring city," was the Mumbaikar's refrain. Now, driving down from the airport to downtown Nagpur, people from outside are enticed by the smooth roads, huge hoardings and clean surroundings.
Not for nothing is the city rated among the ten fastest growing centers of the country. "What's more, it's included in the 60 cities under the Central Government's National Urban Renewal Mission," says Lokesh Chandra, Nagpur's municipal commissioner.
Chandra says, if everything goes well, "we may soon boast of a world-class mass rapid transport system (MRTS) in private partnership." The civic body has also decided to develop its properties in partnership with private investors, he says.
"Unlike Pune or Bangalore - cities where infrastructure has practically collapsed despite good investments - Nagpur has basic amenities in place as it awaits the big boom," Kale says. That's one reason why real estate prices have shot up manifold in the past five years, say builders.
Industrialists say with VAT becoming a national feature, Nagpur is bound to become a warehouse (logistic hub) of industries; factories could be located anywhere, but their distribution could be handled from here.
Also improving the city's standing is the Indian Air Force's IL-76 base, which shifted to Nagpur from Agra in 2002, bringing with it their giant machines.
Tourism experts feel, the city, being the gateway to central India's tourist places, is slowly attracting new tourists. Now that we have a couple of international flights, there is scope for the hotel and tourism industry to grow in this virgin territory, they say.