Andhra capital issue hit land pooling roadblock

Andhra Pradesh, which lost Hyderabad to Telangana, is planning a new capital near Vijayawada at an estimated cost of over Rs 13,500 crore but hurdles have cropped up over land pooling issues with farmers.

The ambitious capital city of Amaravathi, the seat of power of the ancient Satahavanas Kings, 80 km from Vijayawada, has been zeroed upon by the Andhra Pradesh government, which has worked out the plan with a Singapore firm and the public sector National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC).

Thirty-three thousand acres of land, mostly agriculture, is being acquired by the government from farmers in coastal Guntur and Krishna districts for the new capital, which will have a spanking new Secretariat and a legislature complex including the assembly and council, Raj Bhavan and residential quarters for employees.

According to a senior official, the government would go for land acquisition in case it fails to get agreements done with all the farmers who “offered” their land for the capital city.

“As per international standards it requires about USD 2 billion for the capital region construction. It spreads over about 80 km. The activity may get delayed if the land agreement issues remain unresolved,” the official told PTI.

When contacted, Srikanth Nagulapalli, Commissioner Capital Region Development Authority, refused to put a figure on the construction cost saying they are still working on that.

According to him, the Singaporean firm’s job is to prepare master plan for the city and identify master developer also.

“As per the agreement with the Singapore firm, it will give us master plan free of cost. They are also expected to identify master developers for us. The state government is yet to take to decision on master developer issue,” he said.

Infrastructure Corporation of Andhra Pradesh and International Enterprise, Singapore, signed an MoU according to which both the parties will “cooperate in the master-planning, development and construction of the capital city of Andhra Pradesh as a modern, vibrant, sustainable and smart capital city with a strong economy, excellent social amenities and efficient transport and logistics networks.

The 7,325-sq km Capital Region Plan is the first of a three-stage master plan for the capital city.

The state government recently said that the master plan for the capital is likely to be ready by June.

Though the documents are prepared as per schedule, the ground reality appears to be different as most of the farmers who have given their “initial consent” to give up their land for the capital are yet to sign development agreement with the government.

Former minister Vadde Sobhanadreeswara Rao, honorary president of the Capital Region Farmers and Farmhands Welfare Association, alleges that the government machinery is “threatening” farmers to part with land.

“Some of the ministers of the present government had camped in the proposed capital region and used pressure tactics on farmers to get consent letters. They even threatened that their land will be acquired by the government under the new Land Acquisition Bill if they don’t come forward voluntarily,” Rao told PTI.

He said there is plenty of non-agricultural land available in the region which can be used instead.

Rao said the state government should consider the views expressed by the committee on the state capital headed by K C Sivaramakrishnan, Chairman of the Centre for Policy Research.

Echoing similar views, YSR Congress had demanded the TDP government to review its decision on the capital formation and consider the Sivaramakrishnan Report to avoid regional imbalances.

“We are not against the capital formation in any particular region but the way the state is going forward setting aside the report submitted by an expert like Sivaramakrishnan for political and commercial propositions is objectionable as 30,000 acres of fertile land is being taken away from the farmers,” party spokesperson Tammineni Seetaram alleged.

The CRDA chief said the government has no option but to “acquire” land from some farmers in minority number, as the majority is willing to sign development agreements with the government.

“The government has signed developmental agreements for about 7,000 acres till yesterday. There is no deadline for signing the agreements.

“For a major part of the land there are no issues. We expect all the development agreement with farmers to be in place in a couple of weeks. Remaining people also should go with majority. They can enjoy the appreciated value after everybody gave their land,” Srikanth said.

Noted activist Anna Hazare also wrote a letter to the Andhra Pradesh chief minister requesting him to spare fertile land from pooling for the capital.

The government wants to develop the capital as a modern city that is convenient to poor people also. Under phase-1, the plan proposes how the whole area can be positioned to grow economically in the long run.

The plan identifies the appropriate long-term economic positioning of the existing towns and cities within the capital region and the context, therefore, for the growth and development of the future Andhra Pradesh capital city.

It includes a regional socio-economic analysis and demographic study and recommends a set of strategies to enhance connectivity and undertake transit-oriented urban development while protecting agricultural and heritage areas.

NBCC, functioning under the Union Urban Development Ministry, has prepared a Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the public infrastructure at a cost of Rs 13,500 crore.

“We have submitted the DPR to Andhra Pradesh government. It would cost Rs 13,500 crore to create such infrastructure in the state’s new capital,” a top NBCC source told PTI.

Asked about the salient features of the new capital, the sources said the city could have river front development, since it is being established on the banks of a river.

According to Andhra Pradesh government sources, the new capital is being modelled as a gateway of South Asia to house the offices of corporate MNC firms.

“We are looking at a capital city with a mix of features from Singapore, Tokyo, Germany and New York. It would be tourism built in city, as well,” a source claimed.

“We are taking cue from New York and Germany as the city in the United States is a popular commercial hub, while Germany is advanced in technology,” the source added.

As per experts with construction majors, the government should spend approximately Rs 60,000 per sq m for creating world class infrastructure in the new capital city.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/475370/andhra-capital-issue-hit-land.html

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