YS Jagan must swallow his ego for the future of Andhra Pradesh
A few days ago, the Hon’ble Governor of Andhra Pradesh Biswabhusan Harichandan Ji gave his approval to two bills — A.P. Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions and A.P. Capital Region Development Authority Repeal Bills. The same bills were earlier sent to the select committee by the Legislative Council of which I am a member. Andhra Pradesh High Court ordered status quo on the shifting of offices away from Amaravati. The Governor’s decision has created an uproar in the State breathing life back into ‘Save Amaravati’ movement. Intellectuals, farmers and NGOs are decrying the haste with which due process was not followed while passing the bills. Since the new Andhra Pradesh was formed after bifurcation, it was imperative to consult the Centre on the legitimacy of the bills in the background of the AP Reorganization Act 2014. This has led to the current bills standing on weak grounds both constitutionally and legally. In the political context also, these Bills go against the promises made by the incumbent YSR congress government. On several earlier occasions before the 2019 elections, Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy had assured his full support to the development of Amaravati as the capital. In a much-publicized debate, he even contended that the capital must have a minimum of 30,000 acres.
The farmers of the region, most of them small and marginal landowners, rose to the occasion and gave more than 34,000 acres. During the election campaign, many leaders of the YSR Congress assured the people of their continued support for Amaravati. They argued that their leader Jagan Reddy built his home in Tadepalli, part of the Capital region, which was indeed an assuring signal from the party. People have now found out that they have been bluffed.
Failed Models in other states and countries
The logistical nightmare of having 3 capitals is best illustrated by South Africa. It had 3 capitals due to its complex history of apartheid and colonialism. The mistake is haunting them with rising costs of having to manage multiple state functions — executive, judiciary & legislature — across a widespread area and population. Jacob Zuma in his 2016 State of the Nation address as President of South Africa lamented the huge costs involved in maintaining 3 capital cities — Cape Town for Parliament, Pretoria for administration and Bloemfontein for the judiciary. Pretoria is 460 kms from Bloemfontein and 1460 kms from Cape Town. So it is ignorant and extremely short-sighted for the Chief Minister to have taken the example of this failed model to be implemented in our state.
We have other models from India’s medieval and modern history. Emperor Muhammad Tughlaq suffered the huge costs of shifting his capital from centrally located Delhi to Daulatabad in Maharashtra. He ended up shifting back to Delhi. Capitals like Bangalore and Chennai, being situated in one corner of the state, have led to inconveniencing people located in northern Karnataka and southern Tamil Nadu. In 2014, even the Centre-appointed Sivaramakrishnan Committee determined Vijayawada-Guntur Urban region to be the most suitable in terms of connectivity, water availability, and existing development levels.
Administration is full of hassles…
Relocating the High Court to Kurnool and the executive capital to Vizag presents innumerable difficulties for the people. People belonging to Uttarandhra region, from places like Ichapuram or Annavaram, have to travel anywhere between 600–900 kms to fight for justice in the High Court. Similarly, citizens of Rayalaseema region, from places like Hindupur or Tirupathi, have to travel between 600–900 kms to get necessary permissions for their businesses, or to obtain help from Chief Minister’s Relief Fund, or to complete any work that depends on bureaucracy. Rather than decentralising development, the government is actually depriving a wider population the benefits of economic mobility and social integration.
The state government itself is a major litigant in many of the cases that come before the High Court. This requires the regular attendance of Heads of administrative departments and other such state bodies. If all these are being planned to be shifted to Vizag, their heads will spend half the week shuttling between Kurnool and Vizag. This only ends up bringing an administrative logjam. These logistical nightmares end up affecting governance and development. This had already been pointed out by prominent media outlets, policy analysts, and intellectuals but the government is refusing to listen. It is an open secret that this shifting is purely a political move, which will impede development and welfare of people in the long run.
Vizag and Amaravati as Growth Engines
By announcing the trifurcation of the capital, the government is effectively shifting the capital from Amaravati to Vizag. Legislatures don’t function for more than 2 months every year. Thanks to Nara Chandrababu Naidu, Vizag is already a developed city. It is the growth engine for North Andhra and Eastern India; it is the 10th richest city in India and 4th in South India in terms of GDP and per capita income. Under the Telugu Desam Government, numerous investments by prominent business groups such as Adani and LuLu were initiated in Vizag, only to be thwarted by the inefficiency of Jagan Reddy. The trifurcation will hurt Vizag the most, bringing unnecessary chaos and administrative logjams to a fast-growing city. Don’t forget the YSR Congress land mafia which has set foot in Vizag to make it a hotbed for land grabbing and violence. The once peaceful Vizag is not peaceful anymore.
The vision behind Amaravati
“Amaravati is one of the few places in the country where a river flows north instead of south or east. This is considered auspicious and well over 2,000 years ago, the Satavahanas chose the site to build their capital at Dharanikota, two kilometres away from Amaravati town. It’s located close to two well developed cities: it is 32 kilometres away from Guntur and 39 kilometres away from Vijayawada,” wrote The Indian Express.
Andhra Pradesh needs another growth engine, a city centrally located, developed from the scratch in sync with the aspirations of the people, a mega city which will serve as an investment and IT destination like Bengaluru or Hyderabad. Being able to build such a city will send out indications to domestic and foreign companies that the environment and resources in the State are conducive for setting up new industries and services. Amaravati is located in the middle of the State, connected well by air, road and rail. The river-front capital would also be well-equipped to manage any water crisis that might arise in the future.
Without considering the merits, Amaravati is being attacked purely because it is seen as the legacy of former Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu. But we must remember that this is not just about one leader or one party or one region. Amaravati has been built by people, by companies, and by investments coming from across Andhra Pradesh, India and the world.
YSR Congress leaders who are currently MLAs deceived their voters by misleading them on Amaravati. Why this U-TURN? What does the CM and his coterie stand to gain from shifting capitals to Vizag? The Constitution, the Legislature, and the people’s mandate are being abused for the sake of political vendetta. Since Jagan Reddy has the intelligence department at his service, he must ask for ground reports about what people think. He must swallow his giant ego, and for once, do what is best for the people. Because, the future of Andhra Pradesh is at stake here!