AP capital land pooling may compound problems for CM Naidu

AP capital land pooling may compound problems for CM Naidu

The proposed state of the art new capital of residual Andhra Pradesh will come up on 30,000 acres of land in Guntur district, starting from the banks of Krishna River transforming the plush green belt into an urban conglomerate.

The tech-savvy chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu has almost finalised the deal with the Singapore government which will prepare a master plan for the capital. Japan has agreed to provide the necessary inputs to develop the capital region and the capital city into a smart entity, on the lines of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of smart cities.

However, the plan has a hitch. The villagers, mostly farmers of the 17 villages in two mandals (blocks) earmarked for development into the capital city proved to be some tough nuts to crack.

The government has formed a cabinet sub-committee for land pooling and offered 1000 square yards of land in lieu of each acre of land that the farmers contribute and Rs 25,000 per year for 10 years as compensation. The government will develop the 1000 square yards of land within two years before handing it over to the farmer concerned. The yearly compensation will also increase at the rate of 5 per cent per annum to match inflation. The committee was carefully constituted with ministers belonging to Krishna and Guntur districts.

As per the plan, the 17 villages that constitute the core 30,000 acres of the capital region include Velagapudi, Rayapudi, Dondapadu, Borupalem, Abburajupalem, Lingayapalem, Moodhalingayapalem, Uddandarayunipalem, Neerukonda, Nekkallu, Sakhamuru, Kuragallu, Mandadam, Molakapuram, Nelapadu, Tulluru, Nidamarru.

The land so pooled will be divided into six different zones and developed accordingly.
A part of the land pooled will be developed into joint properties such as roads, public parks and other basic infrastructure. The cabinet sub-committee’s estimated at least 2420 square yards of land out of one acre pooled will be available for distribution among the farmers. Farmers will be permitted to build high rise buildings in these spaces allowing them to reap a fortune in the future. Holders of the assigned lands will receive 750 square yards in return for one acre of land.

Above all, the government will have the right to acquire the land of farmers who are not willing for the land pooling scheme. However, the list is only for Phase 1, meaning that more land would be required to complete the capital and the process of land pooling will continue creeping into more agricultural land.

The initial enthusiasm of farmers, particularly belonging to the forward castes and sympathisers of the “Kamma” dominated ruling Telugu Desam Party has faded and turned into fear of losing fertile land close to the river in return to unknown and uncertain future. Their fears are not unfounded as Naidu’s river front capital will be taking over the productive soil that allows the farmers to grow almost 50 varieties of crops.

The sandy loam rich patches on the banks of Krishna river help the poor to grow jasmine flowers which have demand in places like Hyderabad. At least 20,000 families which have no land rights, eke out a living depending on the banks of the river and have no clue how the government will be compensating them once the work of land pooling begins.

The village level meetings with the local MLA and members of the sub-committee turned chaotic with the farmers seeking more details about the compensation package as land value in the capital region and the surrounding area sky rocketed over night. Despite the announcement of boundaries for the new capital by the CM himself, there is no stopping of this trend. Price of one acre land has touched Rs 1.5 to 2 crore – it was just Rs 25 to 35 lakh few months ago. Real estate agents who were fed up with the dwindling fortunes in Hyderabad started descended on Mangalagiri and Tullur.

Windfall gains

While few farmers who were worried about their future following declaration of land pooling sold their lands in advance making windfall gains. Within a week, all major car dealers opened their makeshift outlets in Tullur and Mangalagiri. The trend worried the Opposition, the Left parties and farmers’ associations as they saw a nefarious plan by the realtors to benefit from the developed land. The real farmer who is supposed to benefit from the developed land will be nowhere in the scene when the capital will become a reality in 5-6 years.

Activist Medha Patkar, CPI(M) Politburo member Sitaram Yechury and a joint committee of 10 Left wing parties visited some of the villages and assured them their support. They argue that the AP government could have first identified the government lands and forest lands for the construction of a capital rather than venturing into pooling of land which has no legal sanctity.

The AP State Congress Committee too has asked the farmers not to part with their land as land pooling, unlike the land acquisition process, will not stand in the court of law. The YSR Congress Party has gone a bit further and launched a separate outfit to `save’ farmers of the 17 villages. It also succeeded in mustering support of three villages that have considerable number of farmers belonging to the “Reddy” community.

Meanwhile, a determined Naidu has summoned five farmers each from the villages to his camp office in Hyderabad and tried to clear their doubts. The farmers, apparently satisfied, with Naidu’s assurance returned to their homes with few more new and colourful dreams.

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