Amaravati dream shattered 5 years after Modi laid foundation stone

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Exactly five years ago on October 22, 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the capital city of Amaravati at a grand function at Uddhandrayunipalem in Guntur district.

The Prime Minister had brought soil from the parliament complex and water from the Yamuna for new capital in Amaravati, while Chandrababu Naidu sprinkled the soil and water from a helicopter on the new capital to be, an ultra-modern city spread over 54,000 acres that aspired to be one of the best in the world.

Later, the PM had assured complete support for the development of new state and capital with the reliefs as promised in the AP Reorganisation Act, which includes special assistance to the state. The then Naidu government had received about Rs 1,850 crore as special assistance from the central government for capital development in Amaravati.

When Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party president Jagan Mohan Reddy was in the opposition he had vouched his support for declaring centrally-located Amaravati as the state capital, and suggested to Naidu that at least 30,000 acres of land would be required to establish a capital city.

Naidu convinced farmers to part with their land for the larger interests of Andhra Pradesh. Farmers from 29 villages had come forward to give more than 33,000 acres of land under land pooling scheme.

The farmers signed an agreement with the then AP Capital Region Development Authority. The farmers were promised Rs 50,000 annuity per acre with annual hike of 10 per cent, 1,000 square yards of commercial plots and 250 square yards of residential plots for every acre of cultivable land pooled.

Naidu as the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh had signed memorandum of understanding (MoUs) with industries for more than Rs 1.5 lakh crore investments. Soon after riding to power with a massive mandate, Jagan took a complete U-turn on Amaravati and cancelled all the agreements the previous TDP government had entered into several multi-national companies.

The Jagan’s government had cancelled infra projects worth more than Rs 50,000 crore, cancelled a land allotment of 13.83 acres to the UAE-based LuLu Group, intended to develop a shopping mall and convention hall in Visakhapatnam, cancelled the contract for the Rs 3,216-crore Polavaram Hydel project, cancelled an Amaravati Capital City Startup Area project given to a consortium of Singapore-based companies, Ascendas-Singbridge and Sembcorp Development Ltd.

Jagan had accused Naidu of making Rs 1 lakh crore out of Amaravati by letting his ‘benamis’ buy large tracts of land in the area before the announcement of capital.. However, the Jagan government had failed to come up with hard evidence to prove that there were any large-scale transactions.

On December 17, the Jaganmohan Reddy government announced that Andhra Pradesh would have three capitals instead of one on the South African model, arguing that this will lead to development across regions.

Jagan announced Visakhapatnam as executive capital, Amaravati as legislative capital, and Kurnool as judicial capital. Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan gave his assent to the Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Bill 2020 on July 31.

Naidu’s ambitious plans and farmers aspirations came crashing down. Worried over their future, the farmers and their families have now taken to the streets. Farmers, who have given their land for development of Amaravati as the state capital, have been on a protest for more than 300 days, one of the longest and peaceful agitations, opposing the YSR Congress Party government’s move to relocate Amaravati capital city to Vizag.

As the agitation crossed 300 days, the protest exposed not just the duplicity of the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party, but also the BJP. The opposition parties, mainly the TDP and Communist parties have strongly supported the farmers, the BJP has been playing double games.

The state and central leaders of BJP have taken conflicting positions and standpoint on Amaravati and the three-capital plan of the Jagan Mohan Reddy government. The state BJP leaders have not overtly opposed to abandoning Amaravati as capital city, the central BJP government filed in an affidavit in the High Court that it has no role to play on the issue of the location of the capital city and it was for the state government to decide.

The central government has been indulging in shadow boxing even as the Amaravati farmers’ Joint Action Committee, a host of other petitioners and the state government are fighting a legal battle in the Andhra Pradesh High Court. While TDP and other Opposition parties have extended support to the agitating farmers, the BJP has stayed away from the protests exposing its dual stand on Amaravati.

The BJP’s double standards have been thoroughly exposed more than the YSRCP five years after the Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the capital city of Amaravati.

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