The Central government's move to return 1,125 acres land allocated for the Centre's auto testing track project has left the Madhya Pradesh government between two costly options - raise a smart city or lease it out to industrial houses, experts said. The land in question is located near the Pithampur industrial area.
An industrialist, requesting anonymity, too found both the options investment-intensive for a cash-strapped state.
He said, "One is to allocate the land to the industry on a lease basis and other is to create a residential township on the lines of a smart city. However, either of these projects will need massive investments for building the necessary infrastructure, and the cash-strapped state government will have to join hands with a private developer or carry out the project with funds from the Centre."
Even though the union heavy industries ministry has given in-principal approval to return a portion of land allocated for auto testing track project back to Madhya Pradesh, some experts are sceptical about the idea of developing another industrial area.
"The government has been scouting for land for building a smart city. It would be an excellent opportunity for the state government to build a satellite town rather than another industrial area," Pithampur Audyogik Sangathan president Gautam Kothari said.
A state industry department official, however, said that the government was already planning a smart city at another location in Pithampur.
"We have identified 300-acre land out of a total of 276 hectares (681 acres) in the non-processing zone of Indore SEZ for developing a smart city. The feasibility study has been done and the state government has already approved the detailed project report (DPR). We will come out with tenders to select a developer once the Centre de-notifies the land," he said.
In 2007, the state government allocated 4,100 acres land for the national auto testing track or NATRAX Indore at Pithampur.
The track has been envisaged as a world-class automotive proving ground for comprehensive testing and evaluation of all type of vehicles.
However, the Centre, on state government's urging has now agreed to return a portion of excess land. At present, the partially completed track is used to hold annual competition of off-track vehicles designed by students of different engineering colleges from across the country.
Indore collector P Narhari, who visited the site recently, said it was too early to comment on how the government will make use of the land once it got the possession.