HRF Statement on the plans for a “super-city” capital for Andhra Pradesh

October 29, 2015

The process underway to establish the capital of AP (capital region) in Guntur district in a large extent of land is completely unacceptable. In the first phase, the capital city is said to comprise of over 30 villages and hamlets in the three mandals of Thullur, Mangalagiri and Tadepalli in Guntur district in an area of not less than 50,000 acres. A large part of this extent has already been obtained by the government through land polling. The long-term plan consists of a projected massive urban agglomeration spread across 58 mandals in Guntur and Krishna districts across either side of the Krishna river. The extent runs well over a lakh acres. The region is under the jurisdiction of the AP Capital Region Development Authority (APCRDA).

This “super-city” being pushed by the TDP government is highly undesirable. This is an area which is extremely rich agriculturally and therefore conversion, entailing loss of very precious farm land, would impact negatively upon food security and the environment apart from displacing farmers and agricultural labourers in large numbers. This is a historic blunder that the new government is embarking upon. It would result in huge violence on people living in and around the area.

A capital must ideally be more or less centrally located and accessible to all parts of the State. Land acquisition for it must involve minimal displacement and environmental damage. Official activity must be dispersed across the State with decentralization being the cardinal principal. It would be wise to remember that that in Chandigarh which is the most acclaimed capital area, only 9000 acres were taken in Phase 1, and 6000 acres in Phase 2. These two phases have taken more than 50 years for implementation. Especially with the nearby cities of Vijayawada having the extent of 15,500 acres and Guntur having 13,000 acres, there is absolutely no reason for the new capital area to have an area beyond a couple of thousand acres.

The area where land polling has already taken place for thousands of acres in the three mandals of Guntur district consists of two kinds of villages – one with irrigated multi-crop land within 2 km from Krishna river and another with mostly rainfed land. All the villages have a vibrant agricultural economy, with complete linkages from farm to market, and large sections of people deriving livelihoods – including land owners, sharecroppers, tenant farmers and farm labourers. The area has rich soil and climatic conditions, and a huge diversity of more than 120 crops. More than a lakh working persons earn secure livelihood from agriculture in these villages, including local residents and external labour. Drastic urbanization of this area will adversely impact food security of the State.

The approach of the government to obtain the land through land pooling is not endowed with due process and a sound legal basis. The process had unleashed wild real estate speculation. Even the most basic requirement of preparing a feasibility report has not been done. The only existing law which governs the acquisition of land is the Land Acquisition Act, 2013. This Act can be used only for public purpose, and commercial land development and city development is not considered public purpose. Even for public purpose, acquisition of irrigated, multi-crop land is prohibited except under exceptional circumstances when there is absolutely no alternative.

It is to be noted that under the Land Acquisition Act, every person whose livelihood is impacted by the project should be considered as project-affected person and duly compensated before land can be acquired by the government. The government’s emphasis on land pooling is a systematic attempt to avoid any compensation to entire sections of people engaged in agricultural labour and other occupations, thereby undermining the letter and spirit of the Land Acquisition Act.

Before finalizing the capital project, Social Impact Assessment and Environmental Impact Assessment should be prepared as laid down in the Land Acquisition Act. Both these must be done in consultation with all the local residents who are the project-affected people, including the land-owning farmers, tenant farmers, agricultural labour and people in other occupations. Then a Master Plan should be prepared for the capital giving all the details. This also must be done in consultation with the project affected people and other stakeholders. Only then any process can be initiated by the government to mobilize land.

This Capital city is for the people of Andhra Pradesh in particular and the citizens of Indian in general. So it must reflect the culture, ethos and priorities of the people of Andhra Pradesh. Superimposing the development models of other countries which have a completely different cultural and economic background is highly inappropriate and could create a major cultural shock with far-reaching consequences.

There is a concerted demand from democratic sections in AP calling upon the government to jettison this capital region process. Rather than serving the real estate mafia and big businesspersons, the government ought to proceed in a manner that serves the interests of all the local people including the majority of residents who are not land-owners.