The joint action committee (JAC) organising the farmers' agitation in Amravati has observed a bandh on Saturday across 29 villages in Guntur and Vijayawada districts against the alleged continuous police crackdown on the protesters. It comes at a time when protests by Amaravati farmers against a proposal for three capital cities in Andhra Pradesh has entered its sixty-seventh day. As per multiple reports, hundreds of protesters have been languishing in jails and Section 144 has been imposed at all the important sit-in protest sites.
Significantly, thousands of women farmers and children of affected families have been participating in protests which have taken on multiple forms. Their demand, however, is uniform: That the government does not shift the capital from Amaravati to other regions.
While the state government is going ahead with preparations for constructing three capitals for Andhra Pradesh, farmers from Amaravati argue that they are being cheated and say they will continue the united struggle against the government move. The fate of the state capital has been hanging in the balance for some time now, and the over 29,000 farmers who gave away land for the construction of Amaravati as the capital city are persisting with their struggle.
The state government has been planning for a three-capital model with Amaravati as the legislative capital, Visakhapatnam as the administrative capital and Kurnool as the state’s legal capital.
Meanwhile, the state government under Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe allegations ranging from corruption to illegal land dealings and ‘insider trading’ in the land pooling for Amaravati and other high-profile projects by the previous government under the Telugu Desam Party (TDP). The SIT will consist of 10 police officials headed by DGP Kolli Raghu Ram Reddy.
According to Eenadu, 28 farmers have lost their lives since the protest began. Of these, 26 died of heart failure while two committed suicide.
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Alluri Koteswara Rao, a farmer from Mandadam who gave away his land said he had never seen 28 deaths in a span of two months in the region. The 69-year-old told Eenadu: “All those farmers died from mental pressure after protests began against the government’s intention to change the capital from Amaravati. Karumanchi Gopal Rao, a fellow villager, died of a heart attack after he was told about the arrest of his grandson for participating in the protest,” he added.
Ever since the YSR Congress Party came to power in May 2019, construction work at Amaravati has been stalled and the ruling party has made numerous allegations against the previous TDP regime.
The state government proposed and passed the ‘Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of all Regions Bill, 2020’ in the state Assembly in January, according to which the state will have three capitals, each with three specific functions. It was based on the recommendations of the government-appointed G.N. Rao Committee and Boston Consultancies Group which were asked to look into the matter. However, the bill got stalled in the state legislative council as the ruling party members are outnumbered there.
Subsequently, the YSR Congress government passed a resolution to dissolve the legislative council. The resolution is with the Central Government, whose assent is mandatory for dissolving the council. Until then, the government cannot go ahead with its plan for three capitals.
One major criticism against the government has been that the farmers were not even consulted before the bill on capital was passed.