Andhra Pradesh Governor Biswa Bhusan Harichandan signed two Bills on Friday: the Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Bill, 2020, and the AP Capital Region Development Authority (Repeal) Bill, 2020, making way for the YSR Congress Party-led state government to go ahead with its plan for setting up three capitals for the state from the earlier unilateral capital Amaravati in Vijayawada-Guntur region.
While the opposition parties in the state who have been opposing the three capitals model have condemned the governor’s decision, the ruling party leaders have announced that the Chief Minister will soon lay the foundation stone in Visakhapatnam which will be the executive capital for the state. On the other side, the Amaravati region farmers who have been protesting for over 200 days since the government announced its plans for three capitals have intensified their protests and have unanimously stated that they will take their fight to the courts.
As per the bills, the state will have Amaravati as the legislative capital, Visakhapatnam as the executive capital and Kurnool as the legal capital. However, numerous experts have been arguing that the legislation intends to shift the capital to Visakhapatnam while locating Assembly in Amaravathi and High Court in Kurnool district in the state’s Rayalaseema region. After coming to power, at numerous instances, the ruling party leaders have repeatedly alleged that the previous government under Telugu Desam Party (TDP) had committed land-related corruption in forming Amaravati as capital.
On Friday evening, hundreds of Amaravati farmers gathered at the protest sites in Tulluru, Mandadam and Mangalagiri regions in Amaravati to protest their dissent against the governor’s decision. “The government just wanted to relocate the capital, but did not give any specifics as to how it plans to allay our concerns. Our dreams are shattered. We pinned hopes on the judiciary and executive system, but even they didn’t heed our concerns," said Amaravati Parirakshana Samithi Joint Action Committee (JAC) in a media statement.
Furthermore, the JAC stated that they are confident they will get justice in their legal battle in the matter. Presently, the state high court is hearing a group of farmer’s plea opposing the three capitals terming it as unconstitutional and against the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014.
The previous TDP government under then Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu collected over 33,000 acres of land from 29 villages through land pooling system for the construction of Amaravati as capital and reportedly, over Rs 6,000 crore have been invested in its development. However, ever since the YSRCP came to power in May 2019, all major construction projects there have been stalled.
“During land pooling by the earlier government, while some people of the 29 villages gave their lands voluntarily, others parted with their lands as they were coerced into it. Only a determined few said no to the exercise. While some welcomed the changes that took place between 2015 and 2019, others did not. However, both these groups have had to face the negative consequences of the then government’s choice as well as the present government’s decision. It has impacted all communities,” sais G Rohith, an independent researcher and state executive member of Human Rights Forum (HRF).
Opining that there is merit in the three capitals model, Rohith said that “HRF demands that the government provide livelihood to the landless poor, build labour-intensive small-scale and cottage industries, hand over cultivable land with immediate effect, restore cultivable land and hand it over, engage the landless poor in such restoration work and in building of roads and a bridge on the Krishna river. The government must provide necessary infrastructure, take immediate short-term and long-term measures so as to restore the economy, peace and normalcy in that region.”
Reportedly, the state government has assured that the farmers would get residential and commercial plots in return for the lands taken and promised pension for the landless poor families would be enhanced from Rs 2,500 to Rs 5,000 in the region. However, the government is yet to notify its plans on how it will compensate Amaravati farmers.
TDP’s N Chandrababu Naidu has termed the governor’s decision as a “historic blunder” and questioned what if other state governments begin to change their capitals from existing cities to others. Naidu said that the TDP, along with the JAC, will intensify protests for restoration of Amaravati as capital.
While the Bharatiya Janata Party state unit newly appointed president Soma Veerraju has claimed that they are committed to its political resolution in favour of Amaravati as capital and that the Centre will not intervene into the state capital issue, the Left parties are saying that the ruling YSRCP has cheated the Amaravati farmers and questioned if there is any secret pact between YSRCP and the BJP.
“Amaravati has been decided as the capital when all political parties including YSRCP have unanimously agreed on it. YSRCP did not even mention about shifting of capital during or before the elections. The capital shifting is nothing but cheating the farmers of Amaravati. On the other side, the state BJP unit is only playing drama politics as the governor’s consent indicates that the Centre would have been in favour of YSRCP’s capital shifting plan,” said Ch Babu Rao, State CPI(M) secretariat member.
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