India’s move to build smart cities got a major push last week when Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of Amravati, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu’s dream capital. The land acquisition model that the state used for acquiring nearly 32,000 acres for the capital has been lauded by many and the Centre, reports said, is studying it in detail. But critics say that the acquisition has facilitated land sharks and that there is no clarity on where the farmers who have given up their land will get the compensatory land.
Having said that one must laud Mr Naidu’s decision to build a new city than retrofit an old one to meet the requirements of a capital city. Two cities are good examples of how policy measures can impact the urbanisation process in different ways: Take, for example, Naya Raipur, the new capital of Chhattisgarh. The BJP government did the right thing to move government offices there, which in turn is encouraging people to relocate. It will be a painstakingly slow process — typically, it takes about 20 years for a city to establish itself — but the fact that it is just about 20 km from Raipur gives Naya Raipur a good chance becoming a flourishing city in its own right.
On the other hand is Dehradun; the aggressive urbanisation process that began after it became the capital of Uttarakhand has wreaked havoc on what was once a sleepy town. There was talk of building a new capital at Gairsain in Chamoli but for various reasons, it never took off. But that dream is still alive: On November 2, the state government will hold a five-day assembly session in Gairsain to develop it as a summer capital.
There are several demands for new states in India. Some of them will see the light of day in due course. And when that happens, they would hopefully emulate Andhra Pradesh in building a capital from scratch.