For the last 24 days, farmers who gave away their lands for construction of Amaravati as capital city in the Guntur-Krishna districts have been protesting against the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) led government’s purported plan to relocate the capital. Currently, a high power committee of ministers and bureaucrats is holding meetings to decide on the capital relocation.
The state police on Friday imposed Section 144 in villages where the protest demonstrations have intensified. In the last three weeks, the police have detained hundreds of protesters and have also resorted to lathi charge. On January 8, National Commission for Women has taken a suo-motu cognisance of the matter to probe into allegations that women protesters got beaten up during their protest last week in Amaravati.
Reportedly, on Friday, V Gopi (20), who was working as a tractor driver, allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself at Mandadam village in capital city Amaravati. His family members claimed that he was actively participating in the protest against the relocation of the capital and had expressed fear for his future. According to local newspaper reports, six farmers, concerned about the land given for Amaravati have died of heart attack during the ongoing protests.
While all the opposition parties have spoken against the shifting of capital, Telugu Desam Party Chief N Chandrababu Naidu has been campaigning across the state for the cause.
The protests began after Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, in December, hinted at going for a three-capital model. Subsequently, the government-appointed G N Rao committee recommended three-capital model with Visakhapatnam as the executive capital, Kurnool (in Rayalaseema region) as the legal capital and Amaravati as the legislative capital. Following this, another committee on capital by Boston Consultancy Group also suggested a multi-capital model for Andhra Pradesh.
On the other side, the ruling YSRCP MLAs and supporters have been alleging that there was “insider trading” during the land acquisition process in Amaravati. YSRCP Rajya Sabha MP Vijaysai Reddy had alleged that former CM N Chandrababu Naidu had “led a land mafia in Amaravati, fooled people and engineered the largest land scam in the history of the country through insider trading”.
As the protests have escalated, Andhra Pradesh Secretariat employees have also showed dissent over change of capital from Amaravati.
CPI(M) had earlier condemned the relocation of capital and urged the government to decentralise development but not capital. Film actor Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party demanded that the government look into the concerns of Amaravati farmers.
The previous Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government collected over 33,000 acre through land pooling for the construction of Amaravati as capital and so far, over Rs 6,000 crore has been invested in its development. However, ever since the YSRCP came to power in May 2019, all major construction projects there have been stalled.