Real estate boom in anticipation of future AP capital

The fortune of the temple town of Mangalagiri (meaning auspicious hill) in Guntur district in Andhra Pradesh is set to change anytime if the expert committee picks it as the state capital. The announcement may come any time by the end of August or the first week of September.

Mangalagiri, 25 km from the commercial city of Vijayawada on the other side of the river Krishna, is the abode of three Narasimha Swamy temples--Panakala Narasimha Swamy, Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy and Gandala Narasimha Swamy. The hill looks like an elephant in sitting posture, from any direction. Geologists say that there was once an active volcano inside the mountain and people believe that the tradition of feeding the god with “panakam”, a drink made out of jaggery, is actually to keep the volcano under control.

In the temple, which has no idol as such, has agaping hole like a wide open mouth of 10 to 15 cm. The mouth is covered by metal mask of the god. The jaggery water is offered through a conch. It is believed that a gargling sound could be heard if the Lord is actually drinking. After the sound fades, the remaining jaggery water is thrown out.
 It will be interesting to note that even a single ant is not traceable near the Lord or around the temple in spite of offering huge quantity of jaggery water. Sugar or jaggery water, it is said, neutralises sulphur compound found in a volcano and prevents a volcanic eruption.

The sleepy temple town has witnessed a never before real estate boom following the announcement of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu that the residual state will go for a place which has a railway line, a national highway and an airport that too in the middle of the state as its capital. Union Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, who belongs to Nellore, also announced that the Vijayawada-Guntur-Tenali-Mangalagiri (VGTM) region would be developed on a par with the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, without actually taking the name of Mangalagiri, which fits the bill.

The swearing-in ceremony of Chandrababu Naidu was held near Mangalagiri at the Bible Mission sprawling gro­unds opposite Acharya Nagarjuna University and it added to the speculation that Mangalagiri is almost set to become the state capital. The result was a real estate boom in the triangular area joining all the three cities spread across two districts of Krishna and Guntur. “A few months ago, the value of a square yard of land near Mangalagiri was around Rs 1,400, which now stands at around Rs 20,000,” said Sai Praveen, a real esta­te agent who has his hands full these days.

Following the decision of the state government to set up an ad hoc capital in the region to take the administration close to the people, more and more people started flocking to buy property. Real estate honchos from Hyderabad and Rayalaseema who earlier played an active role in building lucrative business there have descended on Mangalagiri. A steady stream of realtors has invaded the space and the farmers were offered huge amounts for their property.

“But there are no real sale happening here. There is only a big bubble that could burst at anytime,” says K Madhu­sudhan, who teaches commerce in Siddhartha College and is keenly watching the boom in the tri-city region. He reasons out that no one would like to invest whose market value purely depends on the prospects of becoming a state capital. 

“What if some other city is chosen. What if the government brings an ordinance and takes away all the lands. Alre­ady, the government has plans to pay half in cash and remaining in the shape of bonds,” Madhusudhan pointed out. The forest land would cost around Rs 8 lakh but requires permission from the Union Government.

Even as the five -member committee headed by former Urban Development Secretary KC Sivaramakrishnan hinted the feasibility of setting up a capital in a important location between the Vijayawada and Guntur, the observations of the committee on the feasibility of developing a few more centres has created confusion in the minds of realtors. Sivaramakrishnan said that nearly 13 locations have been shortlisted for the establishment of 11 institutions guaranteed by the Reorganisation Act, out of which only AIIMS-type hospital was allocated to the tri-city region.

But the hopes of the government to pool available land for the construction of any such institutions hit a road block as there wasn’t enough government or forest land to build robust structures near Mangalagiri and the logic defying land prices in the private hands makes it impossible to procure private lands.

The committee has also visited Visakhapatnam, Rajahmundry, Vijayawada, Guntur, Anantapuram, Kurnool and Tirupati. There is also another expert committee set up by the chief minister, headed by state Urban Development Minister P Narayana to give its opinion. The state-level expert committee which has representatives from Larsen and Toubro and McKenzie clearly indicates that theVijayawada-Guntur region would be a central location.

However, allaying fears of concentration of development in just one region, the AP government, which seems to be keen on Mangalagiri, says that IIIT, NIT and IIT have been allocated to Rayala­seema, Vizag will get IIM, Petrochemical University in East Godavari, and Tribal University in Vizianagaram and AIIMS in Vijayawada.

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