Belagavi: A city on the frontlines reinvents itself

ANIL URS | | Updated on: Jan 27, 2018


The city may be at the centre of a turf war, but it has morphed into an industrial hub

Belagavi, formerly known as Belgaum, was once a strategic British military post that kept an eye on the Portuguese in nearby Goa. Over a century, it has transformed itself into becoming one of the biggest educational and commodity hubs in southern India.

The town’s history dates back to the time of the Satvahana, Chalukya, Rashtrakuta and Kadamba dynasties, all of which considered it a nerve centre of sorts. In 1818, it was captured from the Peshwas by British forces.

In 1858, the British East India Company took it over and established a municipality the next year. From then on, it has steadily grown in size and in its importance, and has emerged as a major commodities, vegetables and milk sourcing base.

Another important milestone in the city's history was in 1924, when the All India Congress Convention was organised here: It was then that Mahatma Gandhi became the Congress president.

On the frontlines After Indian’s Independence, the city became part of the erstwhile princely state of Mysore, and subsequently the State of Karnataka. But it has for long been a bone of contention between Karnataka and Maharashtra. To this day, Maharashtra claims Belgavi as its own; Karnataka, on its part, pointedly conducts its State legislature session in the city once a year.

Because of the importance accorded to Belgavi by the British, the city has a large area under the administration of the armed forces. It also has a regimental centre of the Maratha Light Infantry, an Indian Air Force base and the Border Security Force’s training base.

The city is cosmopolitan and eminently liveable, and today boasts of six engineering colleges, two medical colleges, and four dental colleges in addition to three universities.

Industrial moorings The city owes its industrial base to modest origins. Over a century ago, Babu Rao Pusalkar, an entrepreneur, set up a small unit in the city; since then, it has become a base for foundries and hydraulics units. Now the city boasts of large number of crankshaft, industrial castings and forging, machinery, hydraulics, and aluminium manufacturing units

Many of these units have now started getting huge orders from the shipping, defence and space industries.

“This combination of industrial and educational base has led to Belagavi having a combined human resources output of 20,000 professionals every year. The city also has over 10,000 hospital beds, and is a centre for health tourism,” said Jaideep Siddannavar, a commodities trader and former president of the Belgaum Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The city plans to leverage its human resource with skill development and planned industrial area development, and attract investment towards ancillary and logistics sectors growth to implement the Smart City Project.

“To make better use of funds from difference sources, we are exploring the convergence of many Central and State government schemes and programmes,” said RS Naik, Chief Engineer, City Corporation, Belagavi.

Liveability is the key To make the city more liveable, the city has lined up improvement of all traffic junctions under the area-based development proposals. It is also planning to upscale its 24x7 metered water supply to the whole city, install smart meters and switch to e-billing.

As part of the smart city plan, there are plans to protect water bodies in the city, beautify their surroundings and develop them as tourism and recreational areas. Also in the works is a plan for rejuvenation of water bodies and all primary and secondary storm water drains.

Belagavi is one of the few cities in the State with a large landfill site and a compost plant facility. The strategy is to enforce 100 per cent segregation at source, upgrade the compost plant facility and develop a waste-to-energy plant for reduction of solid waste.

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Greater emphasis is also being given to renewable energy. The city adminstrators have drawn up plans for solar rooftop power generation of 30 MW and a wind power plant of 30 MW to augment the power requirement by up to 20 per cent by 2020.

“Our other strategic focus for transforming Belagavi is to harness the traditional farm-to-fork economy model with cold storage and processing facilities, developing sericulture, and development of mechanised dairy units,” said G Prabhu, Commissioner, City Corporation, Belagavi.

Economic surge With the border row between Karnataka and Maharashtra lessening in volatility in recent years, the city is surging ahead economically.

It has 10,000 acres of industrial area where several big companies have set up their manufacturing plants.

The city’s industrial units have been bagging numerous foreign orders on the strength of their industrial skills, especially in crankshaft and industrial castings and forging, machinery and hydraulics.

Belgavi also houses the country’s first aerospace SEZ, which has attracted many foreign companies such as Boeing, Airbus and Lockheed-Martin, which source key components from the local manufacturing units.

The city has also leveraged its strength in weaving Shahapur Silk Sarees; these are now augmented by powerlooms, in which 30,000 people are now directly, dependent.

Overall, Belagavi is looking to use the Smart City Project to build on its many strengths and enhance the quality of life of its residents.

Published on March 03, 2016
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