Vijayawada will be the new capital of Andhra Pradesh. Chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu has conveniently ignored the Centre-appointed Sivaramakrishnan committee report while naming the city on the banks of the Krishna river in his haste to get things moving in his state. The report gives three options for a capital city which are well worth considering.
Mr Naidu has, however, agreed to the committee’s suggestion to decentralise power. His political opponents have raised the fact that Mr Naidu chose Vijayawada as it has a powerful Kamma presence — a community that has traditionally backed the Telugu Desam Party (TDP). That notwithstanding, Mr Naidu’s choice also seems to have miffed the people of the Rayalaseema region, with reports that even ministers from the region were unhappy with the choice. It is now up to the CM to ensure that the people of Rayalaseema do not feel alienated and that the new capital will also help in culturally unifying the whole state.
One of the major criticisms against choosing Vijayawada was the lack of government land. Right from the time of the bifurcation, following speculation, the Vijayawada-Guntur corridor saw a real estate boom and now the government will have to buy land at a premium. The Sivaramakrishnan committee report suggests that only a quarter of the estimated Rs 4.5 lakh crore required for the new state capital will come from the Centre.
The state will have to raise the remaining amount and in such a scenario purchasing private land at exorbitant prices will put pressure on the state exchequer. Another area of concern, which was also raised in the report, was that large areas of fertile agricultural land in and around the Vijayawada-Guntur delta region will have to be acquired. This will impact the food security of the state and will likely displace a large number of farmers. This is cause for concern in a state where about 52% of the total workforce is employed in agriculture and related services. The environmental impact real estate expansion will have on the Krishna river and its adjoining area cannot be ignored. This gains significance in view of reports that the CM is keen to have key government offices near Amaravati, a historical town situated on the river bank.
Mr Naidu, like his Telangana counterpart K Chandrashekar Rao, has a golden opportunity to build a model state and not just a capital. In his previous tenure as CM of undivided Andhra Pradesh Mr Naidu focused extensively on building urban assets — he was instrumental in transforming Hyderabad into an IT hub in the country — but was criticised for ignoring development in the rural areas. He must not repeat this Focusing on Vijayawada, Naidu must ensure development in AP.