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Updated February 1st, 2024 at 07:16 IST

Interim Budget 2024: India's Detroit, Chakan needs a shot in the arm

Pune's Chakan, hub of auto ancillaries and production units, is in dire need of an overhaul.

Saqib Malik
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India's auto sector seeks policy intervention | Image:Republic
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Churning Chakan's potential: From being labelled as “Oxford of the East”, for its several blue-chip educational institutes to having become an industrial hub, Maharashtra’s cultural capital Pune, has witnessed a major transformation in last two decades. Mushrooming of auto ancillaries and production units has brought Chakan, located 30 km from Pune's city centre, on the country's automobile map. Can this home to the likes of Bajaj Auto get Budget’s infra boost injection? Republic Business takes a deep dive. 

Image credit: Republic

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Transformation objective 

In 2015, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his visit to Chakan called it “Detroit of India”, this industrial hub came into the limelight. PM Modi’s praise for Chakan, was not just owing to its strategic location, from a manufacturing point of view but also based on the widespread presence of auto manufacturers. While Chakan has seen massive development, this auto and manufacturing hub craves for improved civic amenities along with better healthcare and educational facilities for thousands of unsung ancillary workers. 

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Dilip Pawar, a veteran factory worker, who superannuated last year and was the labour union chief in Pune for over three decades told Republic Business, told Republic Business, that on an average factory workers have to to travel 30 km daily, taking them hours while commuting to work. Pawar said he is hopeful of better mobility and transportation facilities for the auto hub in order to improve quality of life for factory workers. 

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A pensive Pawar told Republic Business that more than 100 workers of Chakan MIDC have died along the 52 kms Talegaon Dabhade to Shikrapur Industrial Road in the last decade. “ We cannot afford to lose precious lives. I urge the concerned authorities to improve transportation facilities to Chakan,” said Pawar. 

“Many big auto companies are based here (Chakan), largely due to its proximity to Pune but also an access Chakan to NH50 between Pune and Nasik, Mumbai-Pune highway and Pune-Ahmednagar- Aurangabad highway. While a well-connected railway network remains a boon for us. I have always felt  the need for better connectivity to boost Chakan,” said Pawar. 

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Seamless connectivity 

Among major auto players Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen Group, Daimler-Benz, Mahindra & Mahindra, Jaguar Land Rover Hyundai and Bajaj Auto are based at Chakan.  Several other large manufacturing units such as General Electric have also added to Chakan Industrial estate’s growth. Pune-based Technology Transfer Association (TTA) has sent across repeated memorandums to the Roads and Highways Ministry and other line departments for Pune’s better air and train connectivity to the rest of Maharashtra and the country. 

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The TTA is keen that policies to develop Pune's industrial areas are drafted after taking all stakeholders into consultation. “Pune has the potential to develop as a major industrial corridor globally like the Osaka-Tokyo bullet train corridor but then it has to wait till the bulk project proposed is accepted and implemented. Public transport to say the least is way behind the demand and as a result the city has seen overdependence on private cars and two-wheelers,” veteran consultant Yashwant Gharpure told Republic Business. “No wonder that for the population of 40 lakh, Pune has 40 lakh vehicles,” Gharpure quipped   

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Industrial power supply 

Another problem that has plagued Pune’s industry, especially its auto hub Chakan, is the pesky power cuts. Unscheduled power cuts have forced manufacturing units to have diesel generators as backup, pushing their cost of operating. Further, power stoppage also means loss of revenue to the government. 

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During his over fifty years of consulting experience, Gharpure has closely worked with the private manufacturing players and industry bodies. He says the prevailing law and order situation in Chakan needs to be put in order. “Industry in Chakan and other clusters is facing the issue of extortion by inimical elements. Last year, a representation was made to the Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. The CM has promised to ensure well-being of the industrial workforce,” Gharpure said. 

Chakan's chequered history   

Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) undertook the development of Chakan as an ambitious project. The name Chakan comes from Chakreshwar Temple, says Gharpure.  The legend is that King Dasharatha while fighting a battle with Rakshasa, his wheel of ratha (chariot) got stuck in a mud pond Chakreshwar.  It was then that one of his three wives helped him and pulled out the wheel following which King Dasharatha granted her three wishes, one of which she used to send Lord Rama to a 14-year exile (Vanvaas), Gharpure recollected.  

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The industrial activity in Pune's manufacturing hub was made possible by the setting up of Tata Motors in the early 60’s. Every once in a while, there emerges a product in the market that changes the order and sets the tone for the industry standard. Pune's son of the soil, Bajaj Auto is exemplary of this trend. One such creation of Bajaj is pint-sized biggie - the Pulsar range. Now in their fourteenth year of production, the Pulsar ranges of bikes has been a revelation for small capacity motorcycles in India and has achieved milestones its rivals can only dream of conquering. The hi-tech plants of auto majors Volkswagen, Mercedes Benz among others have given Chakan, a global automobile identity. 
 

Upskilling, infra boost  

Availability of the skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled manpower is abundant in Chakan. Good infrastructure and other basic facilities in the industrial area are in need for a policy intervention, say experts. As per the official data, over 30,000 people travel to Chakan MIDC every day.  Having been at the forefront of Pune’s civic infrastructure development, Gharpure told Republic Business that traffic jams are a pressing problem for the region. He says there is a dire need that Chakan be connected by Metro train. 

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“The problems highlighted for Chakan MIDC have to be viewed in the larger context of problems faced by Pune to achieve sustainable economic growth in tune with India’s objective of being a developed country by 2047,” he said. “The road density should be 12.5 km per sq km but in Pune, it is 4 to 9 km per sq km. Although a ring road has been planned, it is only in the conceptual stage. The BRTs have been a failure both in the municipal limits of Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad,” Gharpure quipped.

 

 

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Published January 10th, 2024 at 17:50 IST

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