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EAS Sarma advises PM not to visit Amaravati

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India’s one of the most respected IAS officers Dr EAS Sarma (rtd) wants Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to visit Andhra Pradesh to lay foundation stone for the proposed capital city, Amaravati, on October 22,2015, which in his view will benefit realtors more rather than people of the state. Dr Sarma wrote a letter to Prime Minister’s office on Sunday putting forth the reasons why the PM should not visit Andhra Pradesh. Participation in the foundation stone laying ceremony amounts to endorsement of the politically and economically unwise decision to construct the capital  on the banks or River Krishna, unmindful of the recommendations of experts.

To

Shri Nripendra Misra
Principal Secretary to PM
PMO
N.Delhi

Dear Shri Misra,

Subject:- AP CM’s invitation to the PM to inaugurarate the new capital city near Amaravathi in Guntur area- Objections

I understand that, on an invitation extended by the AP CM, the Prime Minister (PM) has agreed to lay the foundation stone for the State’s new capital city near Amaravati on October 22nd. I feel that the PMO should think twice before going ahead with the inauguration.

I have listed my concerns below.

1. In pursuance of Section 6 of the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014, the Union Home Ministry had constituted a committee under late Shri Sivaramakrishnan to study the altrnatives for locating the AP capital city and specifically asked that Committee to keep in view the need to cause “the least possible dislocation to existing agriculture systems as well as ensure minimum resettlement of people and their habitations”, to ensure “preservation of local ecology and natural features including water bodies”, make a “vulnerability assessment for natural disasters like floods, cyclones and earthquakes” and “assess the scope for minimising the cost of construction and acquisition of land”. The Sivaramakrishnan Committee had submitted a comprehensive report accordingly but the State government ignored that report in defiance of the Act and unilaterally decided on locating the capital in Vijayawada-Guntur region, without any consultation wihe the people.

2. The capital city project, as being thought of by Shri Chandrababu Naidu, will disrupt agriculture over large stretches of fertile land, adversely affect the lives of lakhs of farmers, agricultural workers, artisans and agri-based economy, like never before. The project is yet to be subject to a statutory environment impact appraisal.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT), in an interim order dated 10-10-2015, appears have expressed concern at the fact that the State authorities are yet to survey the area and assess its agricultural resources and directed them not to proceed with any activity that is likely to disturb agriculture and the local environment. It is ironic that the Chief Minister is more eager to invite foreign dignataries to the inaugural function than trying to find out the value of the agricultural resources and human capital that will be foregone as a result of the project.
Against this background, it will be highly imprudent on the part of the PM to agree to affix his stamp of approval for the project by laying the foundation stone, as such an act is likely to make a mockery of the law of the land and its statutory institutions, especially at a time when India is pronouncing to the world its resolve to join hands in poptecting the environment.

3. There is a simmering discontent among the people of north AP and Rayalaseema at the huge, extravagent public expenditure being incurred by the State on its grandiose capital city project. Large stretches of land in that area, subject to inundation, may have be raised in level and a new barrage may have to be constructed accross River Krishna to provide water for the capital, involving a huge expense that will syphon off scarce budgetary resources from north AP and Rayalseema districts to benefit the region of the capital city.
Such a large expenditure on a single project to benefit a single region would also starve important development sectors in the State such as public health, education, social welfare and so on. Should the PM endorse this?

4. The State is already groaning under a huge overdraft and is finding it difficult to pay the salaries of its employees and meet the development commitments. The mind-boggling financial commitments being made on the capital city will not only affect the present government but also the future governments to come.

5. I was associated at the Centre with the formation of Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttaranchal States and the commitments made for their new capital cities. In these days of advanced digitial, satellite comunication systems, to concentrate construction activity for a large capital city in one place is uneconomical. The only beneficiaries of the project would be the real estate developers! Many of us fell that, had the AP CM consulted the people of the State, he would have been wiser in taking a decision on the formation of the capital.

As a person resident at Visakhapatnam and familiar with the finances of the Centre and the States, I thought that I should bring these aspects to the notice of Shri Narendra Modi so that he may take a prudent decision on whether to go ahead with the inauguration or defer it.

I request you to show this letter to Shri Narendra Modi in view of the implications I have pointed out.

Regards,

Yours sincerely,

E A S Sarma
Former Secretary to GOI
Visakhapatnam
11-10-2015

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