gfiles magazine

July 17, 2011

‘Grants have been utilized for visible development’

interviewed by Venu Gopalan

A 2001-batch IAS officer of the Karnataka cadre, Darpan Jain had qualified as a mechanical engineer. He was Assistant Commissioner in Yadgir and then Deputy Secretary (Budget & Resources) in the Finance Department of the Government of Karnataka. His association with Dharwad began when he was appointed Chief Executive Officer, Zilla Panchayat, Dharwad. He became Deputy Commissioner of Dharwad in June 2008.
gfiles: What major initiatives did you take after becoming Deputy Commissioner of the Hubli-Dharwad Municipal Corporation?
Darpan Jain: I came here as Deputy Commissioner in June 2008. Hubli-Dharwad is mostly an urban district. After Bengaluru, it is the biggest municipal corporation in Karnataka. It is big regarding both population and area. It is a city which has a good potential for trade, commerce, industry and agriculture. It is necessary to promote trading connectivity within the State and neighbouring Maharashtra. If we provide better facilities here, the investors will automatically turn here for investment. How to achieve this goal was an important question. While studying the infrastructural needs of the district, I found three or four major requirements. First, we decided to acquire sufficient land for upgradation of the airport, as it is the only airport in north Karnataka that links with Bengaluru. Recently, a Belgaum-bound flight has also been started to connect with Mumbai. Earlier, Dharwad used to be a part of Bombay Province. That is why the district has a good number of Marathi-speaking people. At present, this airport handles only ATR flights, which carry less passengers. The runway is very small, on only 300 acres. For Boeings to land, another 700 acres are required. The State government decided to acquire land. It is the first major achievement for us.

gfiles: The region is known as the business capital of Karnataka. Airport expansion is all very well but how will you develop infrastructure for the aam aadmi in this hitherto backward district?
DJ: The big airport will ensure better connectivity. Only one airline has ATR flights so traffic is limited now. After upgradation of the airport, cargo and large passenger aircraft can also land here. Air India is ready to provide services. This is an important spot, Goa is very near. The road to Goa is in bad shape. There is another route via Karvar, which requires a fivehour journey. There too the road is narrow and in bad shape. If those roads are upgraded, the journey will reduce to three hours. Another thing is that Goa has reached saturation point. There is shortage of parking space. The condition of hotels and lodges is pathetic. If Hubli airport is upgraded, it will boost the transportation business. This will also increase investment in hotels and other related business activities. Tourists will be able to utilize these facilities to reach Goa quickly and return here for stay.
Another important piece of work we have taken up is the beautification of the twin cities. They form the largest city after Bengaluru, even larger than Mysore. The State government provides huge funds for Mysore. However, the Hubli-Dharwad region is not getting any special funds. Whatever grant we have received from the government has been utilized for visible development. We did not go for small roads, as it would not benefit the maximum number of people. We started the renovation of major roads and parks. Most of the big roads were in poor condition.
The twin cities have a number of lakes, but they had been ruined due to encroachment and debris. They existed on maps, but virtually could not be seen. The people of Hubli and Dharwad get drinking water from two tanks – Unkal sand Kengari.

gfiles: Who maintains these lakes?

DJ: I want to tell you the advantage I had when the government sanctioned the city grant in 2008. The Deputy Commissioner was put in charge of the grant. The grant is basically utilised by the District Committee and the Deputy Commissioner is secretary and district in-charge. The Minister is chairperson of the Committee. I had freedom and flexibility to complete the task. I have reserved sufficient funds for these projects. The funds have not been diverted to small works. Two-thirds of the renovation and cleaning of the lakes is complete. The Tolan lake of Hubli has been desilted. We have cleared encroachment also from there. Jayanagar lake in Dharwad was also in the same condition. The lake in Patankere, the birthplace of Jnanpith awardee DR Bendre, had been converted into a garbage dump. Now it has also been desilted. We have built a musical fountain there, which was inaugurated by Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa. The Merrakan betta hillock, from where one can see entire Hubli city, had also become a dumping yard for waste. We have developed it in association with the Tourism Department. Now people are enjoying this place. We have improved the condition of the Indira Gandhi Glass House Park also.
‘The twin cities have a number of lakes, but they had been ruined due to encroachment and debris. They existed on maps, but virtually could not be seen.’

gfiles: You say that most of Unkal lake is free of encroachment, but encroachment is still to be seen.
DJ: No, there is no encroachment there now. The lake has been improved not only for recreation, it also maintains the ground water level which has ecological advantage. The lake should not be treated as a drainage water store.

gfiles: What have you done to ensure that the lake’s water is not contaminated by drainage water?
DJ: We have diverted the drainage water out of the city and there is a two-level sewage pipeline now. This water will not go to the lake now. However, whenever there is heavy rain or a flood, the rainwater may flow towards the lake. Now we are planning to use the sewage water treatment technique. This will cost Rs 150 crore – Rs 100 crore for Hubli and Rs 45 crore for Dharwad. We also plan to cover the open drain. Both Hubli and Dharwad have an open drainage system, which is not good for the health of the peo le. It is due to this open sewage system that the urban development department of the Central government does not recognise it as a good city.

gfiles: You did beautification of the cities, resolved the sewage water problem, but the problem of drinking water is still unresolved. People get water only once a week. How will you resolve this problem?
DJ: Yes, this is a major problem. We are taking concrete steps to provide round the - clock drinking water. We are sure of getting water supply from Soudatti river (Belgaum) and Malcauva project. Now the main thing is to have the distribution network. We have constructed an overhead tank and ground reservoirs.
‘The big airport will ensure better connectivity. Only one airline has ATR flights so traffic is limited. After upgradation of the airport large passenger aircraft can also land here.’

gfiles: The condition of the roads is not up to the mark. Do you have any plans to widen them?
DJ: We plan to widen the road connecting the two cities into four lanes. The land acquisition process has begun.

gfiles: You are said to be acquiring agricultural land for it.
DJ: We have acquired both agricultural and non-agricultural land for it. We will not face much difficulty in this project as we do not require much land for it. Since this road is necessary for promoting trade and commerce, we have approached the Planning Commission for more funds. The cost is Rs 150 crore. There is another important problem, that of traffic decongestion. There is heavy traffic from Gadag and Bellary districts and it passes through Hubli. We plan to divert the traffic through a by-pass. At present, there is no by-pass from Gadag, Bellary and Bijapur. These are national highways. We are making Greenfield Road, NH 4, 218 and 63, which pass through Hubli.
Another requirement in Hubli is to minimize truck congestion. Hubli is a major trade centre and there is no truck terminal here. A truck terminal will be built in Dharwad on eight acres. We are also planning a truck terminal in Hubli. The required land has been located. The State government has also given the nod. We have developed infrastructure in smaller towns also.

gfiles: Hubli-Dharwad is famous for literary, art, music and cultural activities. What are you doing to promote them?
DJ: The district has a global identity in Hindustani music. Dharwad is the birthplace of the legendary vocalist, Gangubai Hangal. She was born and died here. We have so many projects. We have developed a Hindustani music centre in her name. It is run as a gurukul, following guru-shishya parampara. This institute has attracted international attention. It has nationally renowned scholars of Hindustani music and has 36 students.

gfiles:How did you develop the gurukul concept?
DJ: It was the dream of Dr Hangal. We have only turned it into reality. We have built so many art and culture bhavans in Dharwad. In Savankere we constructed a theatre. Two major parks have been built in Dharwad and Hubli. We are providing a platform for folk artistes also. This is the rich heritage of the city. Dharwad has had legends like Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, who hailed from Gadag, Basav Raj Rajguru, Sawai Gandharva, Mallikarjun Mansoor, and so on. We have built memorials to convey a message to future generations. In Navalgund taluka we are constructing an aadi kavi pampa smarak.

gfiles: What is being done for women’s empowerment?
DJ: Apart from taking steps to improve the male-female ratio in the district, we are imparting training for self-employment. The ratio of female births has subsequently improved. We are conducting several programmes to activate a selfhelp group. We are providing assistance so that they can stand on their own feet. We are trying to implement programmes relating to infant mortality and maternal mortality.

gfiles: When encroachments were removed, there was no opposition from political leaders and the affected people. Nobody approached the court. How did you manage that?
DJ: Usually, in such cases, people approach the court. However, in this development-oriented work no political hurdles were created and not a single person approached the court. Before starting any development work in this region, we maintained transparency between the people and the department. This mantra of transparency produced positive results.

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