New Chandigarh revives old capital dispute
By Harpreeet Bajwa - CHANDIGARH
Published: 28th Jul 2013 08:58:35 AM
The Punjab and Haryana governments are at daggers drawn over a new township near Chandigarh. The third attempt by the Punjab government in the last more than two decades to create a New Chandigarh at Mullanpur, a stone’s throw from Chandigarh, has pitted it against Haryana government.
Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has questioned the Punjab government’s decision to rename Mullanpur, demanding that Punjab should then first vacate Chandigarh, and not claim any right on it, by handing it over to Haryana. Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, however, says Chandigarh belongs to Punjab and his government is well within its rights to create a New Chandigarh.
Recently, Sukhbir approved a concept plan to develop New Chandigarh. This new city spreads across an area of 15,272.5 acres in the foothills of Shivalik. It would comprise an Eco City, a Medi City and an Education City besides other mega projects. The Education City will have reputed international universities and institutes in areas of hospital administration, management, computer science and engineering branches, biotechnology, multimedia, pharmaceuticals, tourism and hospitality, industrial design, media and mass communication.
The first attempt to create a New Chandigarh was made in 1995 by the Congress as the then Chief Minister of Punjab Beant Singh wanted to acquire 15 villages in the vicinity of Chandigarh and name the area as New Chandigarh. But the plan did not work out. The second attempt to create a New Chandigarh was made by the SAD-BJP government in 1999. The then CM Parkash Singh Badal announced the setting up of Anandgarh Development Authority to acquire around 10,000 acres of land in 29 villages around Chandigarh. But this also couldn’t be materialised as both the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the Supreme Court struck down the move on legal grounds.
“The chemistry of Chandigarh cannot be changed. If today I name Gurgaon as Newly-born Delhi or Modern Delhi, what will it mean? It is not an ethical thing,” said Hooda. The Haryana Chief Minister disputes the claim made by Punjab on Chandigarh, and asserted that “Chandigarh belongs to Haryana as earlier it was a part of Ambala, and we will definitely get it.”
He said, “I wonder on what basis they (Punjab) are staking claim on Chandigarh, as initially Chandigarh was a part of Ambala. They are claiming Chandigarh on the basis of Chandigarh being the capital of the erstwhile Punjab. If that is the basis of their argument, then Lahore and Shimla too have been the capitals of Punjab. Why don’t they stake claim on Lahore and Shimla also?,” Hooda asked, adding that Chandigarh is the capital of both Punjab and Haryana.
Hooda said that he had no objection to the Punjab government’s decision to develop Mullanpur as “we have also developed Panchkula and are also developing Kalka and Pinjore. However, Chandigarh is a brand name and one should not copy it. It is completely unethical.”
While Sukhbir, who also has the housing and urban planning portfolio said, “According to the Rajiv Longowal Accord, Chandigarh belongs to Punjab. We are well within our rights to create New Chandigarh to preserve Chandigarh’s beauty and at the same time create an alternative planned city for people working and living in Chandigarh.”
“If Delhi can have New Delhi and Mumbai can have Navi Mumbai, why can’t Chandigarh have a New Chandigarh?” he argued. “In fact, Punjab is now creating several such planned futuristic urban pockets in the vicinity of all major cities in the state. At present the infrastructure of Chandigarh cannot support it due to population pressure. New Chandigarh has been conceived so that Chandigarh does not lose its aesthetic and heritage value,” said Sukhbir.
Parkash Singh Badal said that before claiming any stake on Chandigarh, Hooda must realise that Punjab being the parent state has the first and foremost legitimate right over the city. Hooda must remember that even Haryana had been carved out from Punjab after state reorganisation in 1966 so there was hardly any substance in his claim.
“Chandigarh is an integral part of Punjab and none other except it could stake claim over it as capital,” he said. For the infrastructure development of the proposed city, Rs 1,278 crore has been approved by the Punjab government.
-The Sunday Standard