Conceived as an ultramodern capital city that India “has never seen before”, Amaravati will now be a much watered-down version of the original plan. It will be one of the three capital cities to be developed in the state to ensure regional balance and equitable development.
A five-member expert committee, constituted in September, on Friday (December 20) submitted its final report, recommending three capital cities: Visakhapatnam as Executive Capital, Amaravati as Legislative Capital and Kurnool as Judicial Capital.
“Keeping in view the overall development of the state, we have suggested a decentralised administrative model,” the chairman of the expert committee and retired IAS official G N Rao told the media at Vijayawada after submitting the report to the Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy.
The expert committee, constituted on September 13 to examine all aspects of urban policy including the location of the new capital city, had received over 40,000 representations from people from various walks of life.
On the lines of Karnataka model, for effective decentralisation of administration, the committee, which comprised of urban planning experts and academicians, recommended constitution of four regional commissionerates for North Coast, Central Coast, South Coast and Rayalaseema regions, covering all the 13 districts.
The 125-page report came three days after the Chief Minister dropped enough hints on the floor that the state could have three capital cities to balance the regional aspirations and ensure equal development of all the regions.
According to official sources, the recommendations of the committee would be approved in at a cabinet meeting on December 27.
Contours of Capitals
- Visakhapatnam: The cosmopolitan port city and the largest in the north coastal region of the state is going to be the executive capital. It will house the State Secretariat, Chief Minister’s camp office and a bench of the High Court, alongside of hosting summer sessions of the Assembly.
2. Amaravati: Located in south coastal belt in the paddy-rich Vijayawada-Guntur region will be the legislative capital with Assembly complex, a High Court bench, and Raj Bhavan.
3. Kurnool: The city from the backward Rayalaseema region will be the heart of Andhra Pradesh High Court and other allied courts.
The report came in the midst of growing protests across 29 villages in Guntur district where farmers had given about 33,000 acres of land, under land pooling scheme, for building a modern capital.
“We feel cheated now. We had voluntarily given our lands in the hope that a new capital will be built here. We demand that Amaravati be restored as the capital city,” said a farmer Ramachandraiah from Tulluru village.
The protestors pointed out that even if the government returned their lands, they would not be useful for cultivation. “What will we do with the lands? Roads have come upon our lands. And, plots have been allotted to other farmers in our lands. Similarly, we have got plots in others’ lands,” said B Srinivasa Rao, pointing towards the road widening works near his village, Rayapudi.
“We have recommended to the Government to address the concerns of farmers in the Amaravati area, and develop the plots allotted to them. We made the recommendations only after speaking to several farmers in the area,” the committee chairman said.
By opting for multiple capital cities, the YSRCP government wants to offer a please-all solution to the capital woes and the stamp of approval would be a mere formality. The critics have, however, dubbed it as “empty tokenism and impractical idea fraught with administrative nightmare.”
There has been a question mark over the fate of Amaravati ever since the change of guard in the state in April.
Soon after taking over the reins of the state, Jagan had ordered a review of all important projects of the previous TDP government including Amaravati. All the works on the dream project came to a halt while international agencies including the World Bank opted out of it.
The idea of having three capital cities, which are located at nearly 400 km from each other, will throw up a plethora of administrative, economic and logistic challenges, though the objective of the government appears to be to keep people of all the three regions happy.
The crux of the argument put forward by the government is that a decentralised approach, instead of concentrating all the resources on one city, would ensure regional balance and lead to equitable development of the State. A cluster of capital cities, drawing from the unique strengths of the respective regions, would meet the aspirations of the people and ensure all-round development of the State, it is argued.
As expected, Amaravati will now be confined to hosting a couple of assembly sessions in a year, a far cry from the grandiose plans envisioned by the former Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu who had invested much political capital on brand building and positioning it as an ultramodern riverfront capital city.
By opting for a cluster model of multiple capital cities, the present government wants to address the concerns of the backward regions of the state and position itself as a champion of equitable development.
There has been a growing demand in Rayalaseema region for locating High Court in Kurnool. In fact, Kurnool was the capital of Andhra for a brief period from 1953 to 1956 before Andhra was merged with Hyderabad State to become Andhra Pradesh, the country’s first linguistic State.
Dubbing the idea of multiple capital cities as impractical, Naidu said, “Such decisions only prove that this is a Tughlaq regime.”
“How can there be three capital cities for a state? Where does Jagan live – Visakhapatnam or Amaravati or Kurnool? Should people run from one region to another region for their works?” he wondered.
The urban planning experts have also questioned the rationale behind a smaller state like AP going for three capital cities. “It will lead to a lot of administrative problems. Every time there is an assembly session, the entire administration will have to move to Amaravati. Similarly, the officials will have to make rounds to Kurnool, which is more than 750 km away from Visakhapatnam, to attend to court cases,” said Vishweshwar Reddy, an urban planner.
“Having multiple capital cities will lead to unnecessary recurring expenditure,” said Dr K Nageshwar, political analyst and former head of the Journalism Department, Osmania University.