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Corridor will boost Maharashtra economy

Cameron’s keenness is a shot in the arm

Gulf News

Mumbai: At a time when Gujarat seems to be racing past Maharashtra in terms of investment and infrastructure, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s offer to help develop the 1,000-km Mumbai-Bengaluru corridor has come as a boost to this state.

Though such a plan is said to have been under discussion between British and Indian officials since last year and Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had recently talked about the proposed Mumbai-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor, Cameron’s keenness is a shot in the arm for this state trying hard to project “Magnetic Maharashtra” to investors.

During his three-day visit to India, Cameron said in Mumbai today that he wanted his country’s companies to help in developing new cities and districts along this corridor which would generate projects worth up to $25 billion (Dh90 billion). This may not look like an enormous sum, since the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority signed a deal yesterday with the Transport for London for the development of a 150-km metro network in the city requiring an investment of $40 billion for transport and civic infrastructure.

However, to look at the proposal in a positive way, this ambitious Mumbai-Bengaluru corridor project, if it covers the neglected Marathwada region of Maharashtra, would be a big boon to the state, with forecasts showing 5.8 percent of India’s population would be in the corridor, contributing 11.8 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product growth by 2020. According to Cameron’s office, by 2030, the project could generate close to half a million jobs while indirect jobs could bring in the total to two million. As people get attracted to the cities emerging on this corridor, with 3 to 4 million people in each city, at least one million homes, 120 schools, 10 colleges and hospitals would be required — encouraging the construction industry and the services sector.

Though no details have emerged on the route of this corridor that could span through Maharashtra and Karnataka or even cross through Andhra Pradesh, Cameron announced that he wanted Indian and British governments to develop nine districts to link Mumbai, India’s financial capital, with Bengaluru, its tech hub.

He even came forward to announce, “With me I’ve got architects, planners and finance experts who can work out the complete solution,” to an audience of business people and workers at Hindustan Unilever Ltd. Physical infrastructure in this region such as transport networks, telecommunication and power generation, and later construction of social infrastructure such as welfare and education, could go a long way in quickly improving the interiors of these states. Until now, only western Maharashtra is highly developed industrially, especially in the Pune sector.

Recently, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had said this corridor would be developed on a public-private partnership model. Several other corridors, including Mumbai-Aurangabad-Nagpur and Mumbai-Konkan corridors are on the anvil.

The 1,483-km, $90 billion Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor built with technical and financial aid from Japan took off in 2006 and is expected to become a reality in 1917. The high-speed connectivity project has given a boost to the economies of six states which it passes through.

The hurdles that any project, particularly mega ones, might face in the country is on the issue of land acquisition which can cause delays and even turn contentious when the project-affected refuse to part with their land. Though Cameron has suggested that his architects and finance experts are ready, there is no dearth of skilled professionals.