Rajarhat (রাজারহাট), also called New Town, Calcutta, is one of India's latest and fastest-growing planned new cities. It is situated at the Greater Calcutta area in the Indian state of West Bengal, and near the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport in Calcutta. Many high-profile industrialists of national and international standing are investing in the township with the cooperation of the Government of West Bengal, to make it one of India's major industrial hubs. The place is already known for being one of the most impressive information technology and computer engineering hubs of India after the Indian silicon valley of Bangalore. The Government of West Bengal, along with some private and public sector companies, is working on providing the township with latest infrastructure and amenities to make it an ideal and happening industrial and residential township.
This new industrial and residential hub is being developed on the north-eastern fringes on Calcutta, the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal, and the erstwhile capital of British India. It consists of the two villages Rajarhat and Gopalpur. The area mainly consisted of huge acres of cultivable lands and waterbodies. The process of investing for residential and industrial facilities and infrastructural development of the area has mainly started under the leadership of present Chief Minister of West Bengal and an industrial visionary Honourable Buddhadeb Bhattacharya in the late 1990s. The governmental master plan envisions a township here at least three times bigger than the neighbouring planned Salt Lake city of Bidhannagar. According to governmental proposals, the township will be extended up to the extreme south of the state, i.e., up to the Sunderbans near the Bay of Bengal.
The area presently partly falls under the Airport and partly under the Salt Lake city administrative areas.
As of 2001 India census, the Rajarhat and Gopalpur village areas had a population of 271,781. Males constituted 52% of the population and females 48%. In 2001, the area also had an average literacy rate of 76%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy was 81%, and female literacy was 72%. Ten percent of the population were under 6 years of age in the area. Muslims comprised about 45% of the population , the rest being mainly Hindus
With the completion of the establishment and development of the township, the population of the area is poised for a significant increase. The Male-female ratio, literacy rate and every other regional statistics will therefore see radical changes within a few years. The existing populace is mainly engaged in subsistence agriculture , animal husbandry , and skilled and unskilled labour. The poulation intended to be settled there is the upper-middle and middle-classes of West Bengal.
Still under development, this area was a big swamp and full of fisheries and cultivable lands. The township's development occurs across each "Action Area". The Action Area I has been developed first and is adjacent to Salt Lake's Sector V electronic complex. Therefore, as a natural extension, a large number of European, USA-based, Chinese, Japanese and the 'Great Indian' software companies have already started setting up their facilities in this part of the township. The area has already been renowned for a major centre for business process outsourcing, and technology giants like IBM, Philips, Wipro and Tata have all set up their outsourcing hubs here. Action Area II, on the borders of the Calcutta International Airport area in North Calcutta, is also approaching completion by the end of 2007. With the completion of the Action Area II, the government plans to work on the development of Action Area III, which will be built behind Action Area I, and will be closer to South Calcutta.
The West Bengal Housing and Infrastructural Development Corporation is charge of building highways in this region, and major ten-lane arterial roads have been built in 2000. A major Calcutta North-South connector wide-lane road, namely Eastern Metropolitan Bye-Pass, was built in the 1980s. And presently the newly built ten-lane arterial road, Rajarhat Expressway, has become an extension to that. The HIDCO is also working on building major bye-pass roads to connect the area with other places of West Bengal, and the Bangladesh border. The West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, another body running by the Government of West Bengal, is working on attracting high-profile investors to set up establishments in Rajarhat New Town.
Existence of the nearby Calcutta and Haldia ports, and the Calcutta International Airport, make it a good destination for trade and commerce. Proximity, and well connectivity to the Bangladesh border (two hours' drive); Nepal, Bhutan, China, and Tibet borders (all 500-600 kilometers away) make this area an attractive business destination. The Government of West Bengal is taking advantage of these unique features for the establishment of industries in this region.
The land here costs one of the highest in the Indian subcontinent, and a number of big ticket real estate players have already started building magnificent complexes. Some luxurious five star hotels, condominiums, row houses, shopping malls and city centres have already been built here in the Action Areas I and II, and more are on the anvil.
But all these developments have not escaped the eyes of the Green Brigade, who argue that the area is a fragile ecological zone and shouldn't be tampered with.
One of the most modern residential places of the country, several renowned real estate companies have already built luxurious highrise apartment complexes in Action Areas I and II, with the partnership of the West Bengal Housing and Infrastructural Development Corporation or HIDCO in short. Among many there, few important to name would be:
All these housing estates have been constructed in vast green fields with 75% of each estate remaining open. This makes these estates one of the most airy ones in Calcutta. Moreover, in five acres of land, each estate has their own club houses with modern sports and cultural complexes, community and shopping centres, swimming pools and others.
This area, according to governmental plans, also caters to the residential needs and standards of high-profile non-resident-Indians. And housing complexes with all/most of the major Indian and Western amenities have been built remembering their needs. By providing housing and all other modern amenities to Non-resident Indians and particularly non-resident Bengalis, the Government of West Bengal wants them to return to their homeland permanently or annually to serve the Bengali people's community.
Some major national schools have already been established here for educating the children of this megacity. The most important being ABC EuroSchool, the soon to open flagship school of the Mumbai based Group. Many other higher education colleges, and especially engineering and business management colleges, have also been established here. The world-renowned and prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur is planning to set up a new campus here. The Government had established Derozio College for the villagers of the Rajarhat - Gopalpur section in the 1980s. The West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, one of India's premier law schools; the National Institute of Fashion Technology, a premier fashion designing school; the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, one of the country's finest institute for teaching film directing and editing; and the West Bengal University of Technology; are all located in the New Town - Salt Lake adjacent area, i.e., on the southern fringes of the Eastern Metropolitan Bye-Pass. Also on the plan is the establishment of a postgraduate section of the prestigious St. Xavier's College, Calcutta in its southern fringes, in the adjacent area to the Eastern Metropolitan Bye-Pass. The land for the new postgraduate section of St. Xavier's College, Calcutta was a gift to the college by its alumni and billionaire Lakshmi Mittal. Rajarhat-Gopalpur has the second-highest number of Islamic Madrassahs in West Bengal.
Many professional educational institutes (especially in business management and engineering) set up in this area are very well known.This included [Techno India College of Technology http://www.tictcollege.org] under the Techno India Group affiliated to WBUT. However, one thing that Rajarhat New Town lacks is a premier teaching and research institute of basic arts and sciences. Nor are there any projects by the government to establish institutes of basic arts and sciences in the area.
Though major hospitals are yet to be built, this area has good connectivity with other parts of Calcutta which have sophisticated health centers. A handful of million dollar healthcare facilities are under projection, and most of them will be completed within the years 2010-2012. The most notable to mention would be the proposed intensive care hospital and state-of-the-art Cancer Research Centre by industrialist and international steel-baron Ratan Tata.
The area needs more healthcare facilities of its own, to be established both by private organisations, and by government which will ensure good health facilities at a reasonable price.
The area has, though not internationally excellent, one of the best entertainment facilities in the state of West Bengal. Apart from private clubs of every offices and estates, the area has a good number of children's parks and clubs. Notable mention among those will be a water park called Aquatica; a good children's park called Nicco Park; a huge picnic spot consisting of waterbodies called Nalban; and a club for adults with traditional Indian yoga and spa facilities, called Vedic Village.
Several international shopping malls are being constructed in the area, a few of them being already completed. Notable malls are Axis and City Centre. The Rajarhat - New Town area is a shopper's paradise in the real sense of the term, but all these malls have been planned especially keeping in mind the needs of the elite class.
International five-star hotels like ITC Sonar Bangla, Hyatt Regency, and Airport Ashok are situated nearby. These hotels have good multicuisine and pub facilities. Some more five-star and super luxurious hotels are planned, including one being recently announced in 2007 by Ratan Tata for his chain of Ginger hotels. But in general, the Rajarhat - New Town area till date seriously lacks good restaurants and pubs of reasonable prices.
The Government of West Bengal plans to shift a major portion of their administrative facilities to this new location.
The new township of Rajarhat - New Town is yet to establish any railway connectivity. Air Conditioned Government and Private Buses, Yellow Cabs, and other popular India transports like Auto Rickshaw are already in action to provide transportation service. Plans of extending the Calcutta underground railway system, namely Calcutta Metro, and the railway system of the Indian Railway in 2010-2012 are also there. This area's wide lanes are absolutely free from traffic congestion, making this place a favourite place for passionate highway drivers of Calcutta. Vehicle speeds in this area is notably higher than other parts of Calcutta, thanks to well-built and wide steel lanes. But traffic accidents are also on the rise due to reckless driving in this area. Some instances of running over school children crossing the road have taken place in recent years, causing a major reason of concern for social activists. However, the area, being situated close to the international airport, and at only a few miles distance from the Calcutta metropolis, is well connected regionally, nationally, and internationally.
In order to make it to a really nice place to live, Rajarhat - New Town urgently needs: