Get the Route Right
–Delhi-Mumbai Corridor can revitalise region–
S Inderjit Singh Jaijee*
Last year the Government of India announced the establishment
of a dedicated freight and industrial corridor covering
the area from Mumbai to Dadri. An area approximately 150
kms wide (described as the “influence region”)
has been identified on both sides of the corridor for development.
The route of these corridors (Mumbai to Dadri) passes through
Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and
Haryana. On representation by Punjab it has now been extended
to Ludhiana via Chandigarh.
The Yamuna provides the boundary between the states of Haryana
and Uttar Pradesh on the eastern sides. The proposed route
runs close to the Yamuna from Delhi to Karnal, a distance
of approximately 150 kms. The land on the eastern side of
this route from Delhi to Karnal is a narrow strip. The main
trade would therefore come mainly from the western side.
This corridor is already developed and can handle increased
cargo. Investing money on improving it may give some more
benefits in the short term but developing an alternate route
through the interior of both Haryana and Punjab would provide
much higher returns and benefit a considerably larger section
of the people. It would be much more inclusive.
After partition of India in1947, industrial development
was denied to Punjab first on the rationale that it would
be vulnerable to the enemy and later on the consideration
of retaining Punjab as the bread basket of India. Whatever
industrial growth took place was mainly around the periphery
of Delhi. On the division of Punjab in 1966, these industrial
areas went to Haryana. Here again, while the state of Haryana
around Delhi and along the eastern end of the corridor benefited,
the interior was left undeveloped.
The land along the corridor up to Karnal is highly fertile
khadher land and should be reserved for agriculture. On
the other hand, the land along the proposed alternate corridor
passing through middle Haryana, is semi-arid land where
the water is highly saline and not suitable for agriculture.
In the Punjab section of the proposed route the sub-soil
water, apart from being saline, is receding. The average
depletion rate is 30 to 40 cm and goes up to 1 metre in
some places, conjuring up images of desertification in the
very near future. Another advantage in choosing an alternate
corridor is a lower cost of land acquisition.
The alternate route would serve almost all the important
towns in both the states of Punjab and Haryana. It would
have a shorter distance. It would help to strengthen and
extend industrial growth around these towns. This in turn
would generate employment and absorb surplus farm labourers
who are committing suicide in thousands.
The proposed alignment travels along the middle of both
Haryana and Punjab providing maximum benefit to industry
on both sides. This travels along Delhi, Rohtak, Jind, Narwana,
Tohana and Jakhal in Haryana, and in Punjab it goes through
Sunam, Dhuri, Malerkotla, Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Amritsar.
It passes through the middle of Haryana and Punjab and is
well served by the railway network through junctions at
Rohtak, Jind, Narwana and Jakhal in Haryana, which link
Bhiwani, Panipat, Kaithal and Hissar. In Punjab, Dhuri,
Ludhiana and Jalandhar junctions connect Patiala, Bhatinda,
Khanna, Gobindgarh, Ferozepur and Jammu. Connectivity by
road is good but it requires further strengthening. An eight-lane
road from Delhi to Rohtak has already been taken up. The
corridor needs to be extended up to Ludhiana and the single
rail track needs to be upgraded to a double track. No major
obstacles such as rivers fall in the way of this route.
This proposed corridor would also serve as a backbone to
the network of strategic defense roads along the Indo-Pak
Over the past few years, commerce and industry have grown
at the rate of 8 to 9 per cent whereas growth rate in agriculture
has been stagnating at around 1.5 to 3 per cent. 70 per
cent of the population lives in the villages of rural India.
Even in urban areas the actual beneficiaries of this development
are not more than 4 to 5 per cent of the people.
In 1971, the Central government clamped a ceiling on rural
land holdings but left urban holdings untouched. In addition,
the government has been enforcing an unremunerative MSP
From ancient times North India was crossed by trade routes
on a roughly north-west south-east axis that connected Central
Asia with the Gangetic plains. With the division of the
country in 1947 and the ensuing bitterness with Pakistan,
this trade was disrupted. The northern trade was diverted
through the ports of Gujarat and Maharashtra.
Since the time the corridor plan was thought out, our relations
with Pakistan have undergone a sea-change. Democratisation
of Pakistan has made trading with our neighbor not only
possible but imminent. In response to this opportunity the
corridor project route needs to be revised. The alternate
corridor proposed would provide access to all the three
main trading routes to Pakistan, i.e., Hussainewala, Attari
and Dera Baba Nanak.
The northwest-southeast overland route is beneficial to
the industrial growth of north India as it provides a two
way trading opportunity and a much shorter distance. Unofficial
trade is large, and with the opening up of the border, it
is expected to increase dramatically. Amritsar to Lahore
is a mere 50 km and the Hussainiwala border from Ferozepur
is just as close.
In addition there are trade advantages of trans-Pakistan
commerce with Central Asia and beyond, and fringe benefits
such as growth of our goods transport sector or diversification
of agriculture to cater to cross-border demand. Punjab,
a land whose roads lead only inward to the Gangetic plain,
can once again become the gateway of India.