Naidu's smart capital is taking forever to come up
Andhra CM wants to create a capital that lasts forever. But as of now, Amaravati is taking forever.
“We are worse than refugees, we have to build our lives all over again,” says Chandrababu Naidu, two years after Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh on June 2, 2014. Naidu is sitting in his camp office in Vijayawada, the curtains of his rooms printed with large images of Gautam Buddha. “My first task is to establish a capital for Andhra Pradesh and I want to create a city that will be remembered by people for centuries,” he says. But Naidu admits that he has no money and the financial position of Andhra Pradesh is pretty bad. The Government of India is really not open-fisted, so Naidu is looking for foreign participation in building “the pioneer smart city of India”.
But right now Naidu is faced with another problem. Only a few officers have shifted with him to Vijayawada. Most officers stay in Hyderabad and shuttle to and fro. The entire staff of the government departments is in Hyderabad, although the ministers have shifted. “I understand that officers and staff want to stay in Hyderabad. But a beginning has to be made because, after all, we have to shift,” says Naidu.The CM has stipulated that the staff must shift by June 27. But clearly that is not possible.
To move or not to move?
For starters, a six-floor temporary government secretariat is being constructed in Velagapudi village in the new capital area. But only the ground and first floors of the building (that too the outer walls) are ready . The building is surrounded by slush, and with monsoons barely a week away work will be delayed. Without the offices, there is nowhere that the staff can shift to. The various employees’ unions are also speaking in different voices: in principle, they say, they are ready to move but they enquire about schools and colleges for their children and houses for them to stay . “I am ready to move from Hyderabad, but I am concerned about my 80-year-old mother. How do I move her in this uncertainty?” asks an assistant director of the state government.
Under the provisions of the bifurcation, Hyderabad will remain the joint capital for 10 years. “Only two years are over. But it is one helluva job to manage the government from two places,” says a government secretary . He stays in Hyderabad but goes to Vijayawada twice a week. “Decisions are taken in Vijayawada where the CM and ministers are based. Then I rush to Hyderabad where the staff of my department operates from, to prepare the files and memos.Clearly, this system cannot go on for long,” he adds, but confides that his wife is not willing to move “under any circumstances”.
Bullocks instead of govt buildings
At Uddandarayunipalem village (U R Palem in short), where the foundation stone for the capital was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Dasara day last year and where the permanent government secretariat, high court and legislative assembly buildings will come up, there is no sign of any activity save bullocks grazing the land and a group of young boys playing cricket. The farmlands are lying waste although in the village proper some denizens are constructing big houses. The landowners have given up their land under a pooling scheme in the hope of making big bucks. For the time being they are getting Rs 50,000 per month but shortly they will get developed plots of 1,000 square yards for residential purposes and 450 square yards for commercial purposes. It’s highly fertile land with the river in close proximity , and the farmers grew fruits and vegetables which fetched good prices.
The local buzz is that many farmers have `sold’ the plots they will get in advance to realtors and got hefty amounts in return. It is the realtors who will get the developed plots. Some farmers say they were forced to do so because the government is taking too long to develop the plots. A total of 30,000 acres has been pooled across the 29 villages, and there are stories that in places strong-arm methods were used to make the farmers part with the land. However, there are a few farmers who are holding on -especially in two Reddy-dominated villages under the influence of opposition leader Jagan Reddy. Now the government is threatening to invoke provisions of the land acquisition Act.
But private builders are in a rush…
In Mandadam village, there is frenzied private construction. A villager confides that since the government secretariat will shift to Velagapudi close by, the demand for houses will go up. Housesflats for rents are being readied in anticipation. Many bank branches can be spotted: all of them are full of deposits. A bank branch manager confides: “The villagers now have a lot of money and want us to keep it safely .”
In the meantime, the AP government is in final stages of doling out a contract to a Singapore company Ascendas Land (Singapore) PTE to construct two 31-storied commercial high-rises on 1,691 acres in the capital area. The buildings will have 8 lakh square feet of space each.
We ask Naidu when his capital will finally be ready and complete. The CM answers indirectly: “I took nine years to complete Cyberabad.” Cyberabad is the new IT enclave of Hyderabad.Creating Amaravati is a more daunting task -so the message is clear. It will take more than a decade to create a brand-new Amaravati.
In Pali, Amaravati means abode of the deathless, meaning that nirvana can be attained here. Now a tiny town, it was a major Buddhist centre in third and second century BC. Naidu says that Buddhism was exported to southeast Asia from here. The proposed capital is 25km away from the historical Amaravati -but Naidu has chosen the name because he wants his capital to last forever. Moreover, he wants to use the name of the Buddha to establish an immediate connect with Japan, Korea and Singapore -countries that have surplus investible resources.
From the point of view of vaastu, Naidu wanted a riverfront capital. The historical Amaravati is also on the banks of the river Krishna; vaastu also projects that a capital that has water on the northeast corner is auspicious. U R Palem village -the site of the legislature, secretariat and high court -has the river flowing in the northeast.