Amaravati: A Recipe for Disaster
What do you do when you get 33,000 acres of fertile land for capital development from farmers belonging to 29 villages voluntarily? You scrap it and put their lives in jeopardy.
To the unaware, this is what is happening in Andhra Pradesh. The new government under YSRCP (Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party) has decided to decentralize administration by having separate capitals for the legislature, administration (executive) and the judiciary. This move is opposed by farmers who gave up the land for the welfare of the state and are now facing the wrath of police action, being called paid actors and whatnot.
In a span of eight months, the entire hubbub of constructions has come to an abrupt halt. Workers state that before May they were working at a fast pace and now things have slowed down and are constantly under the looming fear of losing their livelihood.
Amaravati: Dream town to Ghost town
As soon as the state of Andhra Pradesh got bifurcated in 2014, the newly formed state government of Andhra Pradesh under TDP realized that they are running low on budget and would not be able to spend huge sum of money in land acquisition to build the new capital, Amaravati. So they come up with this innovative scheme of Land Pooling. Under this scheme, they would collect land around Amaravati ( comprising of 29 villages from a couple of districts) would return a developed land later on. This scheme was well received by the farmers of that particular area who voluntarily gave a whopping 33,000 acres of extremely fertile land. Now comes the question, how fertile was the land? The farmers state that they could grow 3-4 crops a year. In a country where growing 1 crop a year is difficult, here in Amaravati, the farmers gave up extremely fertile land in return of a promising future. And in the meantime, until the region of Amaravati develops into an economic hub, they would receive a nominal sum from the government annually.
This entire saga went really well for the first five years. The Bhoomi Puja for Amaravati was done by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself who promised to make it a greater capital than Delhi itself. The city received lots of attention from domestic and global players as well. It was decided that the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the State Government would develop the capital under the aegis of a Singaporean Consortium. The state witnesses a new assembly, a new secretariat, a new high court, an IIT, AIIMS, VIT AP and SRM AP to name a few. It was at the end of these five years (2014 - 2019) that the honeymoon period ended.
The TDP party fell into a well laid out trap by the YSRCP and losing the 2019 state elections brutally. They were reduced to a mere 23 seats from 102 whereas the YSRCP rose like a phoenix to bag 151 seats in an assembly of 175 seats. At present, just like the centre, there is virtually no opposition in Andhra Pradesh.
The Issues at Hand
Just as operators of Chernobyl Reactor 4 pulled out of each and every control rod one by one until the whole reactor lost control, the new state government started pulling each and every control rod implanted by the previous government.
1. Razed the Babu's Camp office by stating that it was an illegal construction on the banks of a river.
2. The World Bank pulls out citing that the project was not under consideration. The Asian Development Bank follows. Panic starts.
3. CM of Andhra Pradesh, Jagan Mohan Reddy suggests a new three capital scheme. Vizag being the executive capital, Kurnool being the judicial capital and Amaravati being the legislative capital. This whole thing would have been good if it was implemented at the start and not after capital announcement and acquisition of 33,000 acres of land. Even then, the executive and legislative capitals have to be in the same place or else it would be a logistical nightmare.
4. Out of thin air, a committee headed by GN Rao backs the three capital formula. The committee has been termed as bogus by the farmers who state that not even a single officer has visited them to understand the ground reality. It was widely speculated that a cabinet decision would be taken after Christmas but then they state that they would wait until Boston Committee gives its report. A couple of days ago, the Boston Committee gave thumps up to the three capital formula.
All these committees delivering reports within few months make me wonder from when did we become so efficient? When was this committee officially formed? How did they deliver reports in just a few weeks? Was it really bogus? Why wasn't the public informed earlier of those committees?
Farmers: An instrument of fun?
All while this was a happening some 1000 odd families started protesting the move. Initially, the whole of AP rejected the idea but then slowly the heat subsided in Vizag and Kurnool (Remember Divide and Rule?) but that didn't deter the farmers. They are literally protesting peacefully in various forms from playing sports on roads to cooking and eating on the same roads. They get over with their daily works early in the morning and start protesting until dark peacefully unlike how people protest the CAA / NRC. In return all they get is getting cat called "Paid Actors", "Amaravati is a desert", "We will give back their land if they want" (As if that is acceptable after digging the topsoil 100 feet deep and destroying humus). I personally believe they are protesting genuinely because none of them are pelting stones, burning buses, disrupting public but what is the use of such a protest when none of the national media houses wants to hear their anguish. This makes me believe that at present in India people will only notice you if you violently peacefully express your opinion.
To add insult to injury, the police brutality shows no bounds. Women are being choked, dragged and thrown around in busses to clear roads. People are being run over by busses as shown in some of the regional media channels. They are writing to the President seeking "Mercy Death". They are requesting re-elections / President rule. They are cursing themselves for bringing the party into power. The state government has kept mum on this issue and not even once did the Chief Minister feel that he should address the issue.
If you don't learn from history you're destined to repeat it. In spite of studying from the Hyderabad Public School. I guess the leader hasn't learnt anything from the mistake committed Mohammed Bin Tuglhaq who shifted the capital from Delhi to Daulatabad (Maharashtra). I fear the next government might change the capital again which will further fuel the bleeding from these thousand cuts. Remember that the capital was decided with the nod of YSRCP in 2014. They had no objections back then that the region was right adjacent to a river and whatnot.
To conclude with, if you live by the sword you are destined to die by the sword.