Andhra's capital plan draws activists', Opposition fire

Andhra's capital plan draws activists', Opposition fire

Andhra Pradesh government's efforts to pool thousands of acres of land to build a green-field capital on the banks of Krishna river have come under fire from social activists and opposition parties with questions raised on the land acquisition process and whether such a model is required at all in a predominantly agrarian state.

The government last week notified the areas covering broadly 7,068 sq km as AP Capital Region in Krishna and Guntur districts and 122 sq. km as capital city with the AP Capital Region Development Authority Act, 2014 coming into being.

"One-third of the capital city site is irrigated multi- crop area prohibited from being acquired even for public purpose. City/commercial development is not public purpose," says M G Devasahayam, who led a fact-finding team of National Alliance of People's Movement (NAPM), a network of social activists, to some of these 29 villages identified as part of the capital region.

"Decisions are being taken in a clandestine and arbitrary manner and there is neither expert nor public consultation.

"With such a high level of population and shrinking land resources, fertile agricultural lands are precious assets essential for food security. Buildings can be built anywhere and such fertile land is God's gift that cannot be replicated by man," Devasahayam told PTI.

CRDA Act makes no provision for public hearing or consultation about the concept master plan and detailed master plans whereas public consultation has been mandated for most projects, especially those impacting thousands of families.

Land Acquisition Act (2013) also requires a Social Impact Assessment to be performed, he pointed out.

Another rights activist said a totally urban city like Singapore cannot be a model for the capital of a predominantly agrarian state like Andhra Pradesh.

Besides, India has good urban planners and designers and it is an insult to ignore them and entirely depend on a small city-state for expertise.

The best alternative is to optimise land use, assemble minimum -- about 5000/6000 acres-- of un-irrigated land and utilise the latest urban planning and construction methodologies or technologies to build an administrative capital for million-plus population.

Local talent and inputs can be utilised for this, adds Devasahayam, a former IAS officer who was administrator-cum- estate officer for Chandigarh in the 1970s.

Alleging that the TDP government was "harassing" farmers to surrender their land for capital formation, opposition YSR Congress said it will take up the cause and fight on behalf of affected people and will also explore legal options against the "dictatorial attitude" of the state.

"Farmers are being harassed and official machinery, more so police, is being used to settle political scores," party MLA Alla Ramakrishna Reddy alleged, adding, they are not willing to part with their land and the "adamant" state government is using "force and coercion" to get its work done.

"Our leader Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy has categorically said that we are not against the capital formation at any place but a debate should take place before zeroing in on any place. The state did not heed the advice and has unilaterally taken the decision and uncertainty prevails in all the 29 villages falling in the orbit of the capital region," he added.

Some urban experts said the K C Sivaramakrishnan committee's suggestion for decentralising governance by locating government offices at regional centres taking advantage of the hi-tech communication is a good model.

Devasahayam said never has such pooling been attempted even in a few hundred acres of agriculture land, let alone to build a capital-city in over 30,000 acres of prime farming land.

"CRDA Act makes no provision for public hearing or consultation about the concept master plan and detailed master plans whereas public consultation has been mandated for most projects, especially those impacting thousands of families. Land Acquisition Act (2013) also requires a Social Impact Assessment to be performed," he said.

A leading city architect said, "Prostration before Singapore experts is an insult to Indian planners and architects and they are upset.

"Before building world-class cities AP government will be well advised to make the existing towns and cities at least local-class by providing drinking water, safe roads, public transport, sanitation and waste management- solid and liquid."

State government officials said 30,000 acres in 29 villages are proposed to be pooled in the first phase by the middle of this month by CRDA, which aims to boost the acquisition figure to 50,000 acres in three months.

Master plan for the capital city is expected by June end, they said.

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