Sometimes religious fervour can transform an untended city into a model of development. In the case of Nanded in the state’s Marathwada region, among the least developed cities in the state, the big push came when the state and the central government decided to spruce it up ahead of Gurta Gaddi, a ceremony to mark the 300th year of the consecration of Guru Granth Sahib as the last guru the Sikhs. The city is home to one of the five most revered Sikh temples, Sachkhand Darbar Shri Hazoor Sahib. So charged has been the pace of development since it began in 2005, that this city of barely 6 lakh people will become entirely slaum-free, the first in the country, by the middle of next year. The massive transformation of the highly congested, dusty and backward Nanded started in 2001when the city’s municipal corporation drew up an ambitious plan to redevelop and modernise the holy city. The then-mayor approached the then-prime minister, chief minister and the planning commission, seeking funds for the city’s crumbling infrastructure. However, nothing much happened. The real thrust came in 2005, when the then-chief minister appointed a high-level committee, headed by PS Pasricha, who was the state director general of police at the time, to prepare for the tri-centenary celebrations as about 50 lakh pilgrims were expected to visit the city in 2008-09. The state government allotted Rs250 crore for the makeover. Then, in 2007, the central government sanctioned a five-year plan worth Rs2,500 crore. The local Gurdwara board chipped in with Rs300 crore by the middle of 2008. Within a shot span, four new flyovers came up, nearly 100km of roads were constructed, and several others were widened. The new roads conform to international standards, with a four-feet-wide pedestrian path, a four-feet-wide cycle lane, ample parking space, and four lanes for vehicles. A swanky and spacious airport with night-landing facilities was readied in just eight months to meet the Gurta Gaddi celebration deadline. Constructed at a cost of just Rs70 crore, the airport has a 2,300-meter-long runway which can handle all types of big aircraft, including the Boeing and the Airbus. The sewage system was also upgraded and new pipelines were laid, ridding the city of open gutters. The biggest project, however, was to provide comfortable homes to the city’s over 26,000 slum dwellers living on the outskirts of the city. Of the central government contribution under the JNNURM scheme, Rs1,100 crore has already been spent, and 6,000 tenements are ready for occupation. The remaining will be completed within the next 18 months, according to Deepak Mhaisekar, municipal commissioner, Nanded. “Our goal is to make the city slum-free by the middle of next year,” Mhaisekar told DNA. With funds flowing in from all quarters, the local administration and the Gurdwara board also took up several projects to decongest the city, particularly the area around the holy shrine. “It was very crowded and roads so small that even a parked four-wheeler would choke the approach roads to the shrine,” said board chairman, Pasricha. Baljeet Parmar / DNA, Tuesday, March 2, 2010 Editors note: In the process of modernisation and renovation the surrounding areas around Takht Hazur Sahib have paid a heavy price in several old buildings being demolished.