Does Jagan have an alternative to the Amaravati World-Class Illusion?

Hyderabad: Visiting journalists, who are mostly from India’s metropolitan centres, often, tend to get easily affected by the current dismal picture of Andhra Pradesh’s capital city Amaravati. The first thing they love to do is to describe this as a ghost city, even though there was no city whatsoever in the vicinity earlier.

Yes, construction activities at Amaravati have come to a grinding halt with contractors demobilising the men and material from the site. This, coupled with the destruction of a few illegal structures raised by the previous TDP regime, indeed presents a deplorable picture to all those visitors who wanted to see an emergent “World City” on the banks of River Krishna.

They tend to postulate that destruction is easier than building the brand image. Some had even gone to the extent of dubbing the policy of Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy as the annihilation of Amaravati. Many see this as a wanton act of vendetta. Maybe they are correct to some extent because the politics of contemporary India, from New Delhi to Hyderabad to Amaravati, are driven mainly by vendetta.

To counter the criticism, Jagan is not able to offer any convincing alternative to the Amaravati world-class city illusion. As an architect of Greenfield capital Amaravati, ex-Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, created an aura, true or false, around the capital. Though there has been disapproval for Naidu’s Amaravati from environmentalists and urban planners who consider this an all-out- war on nature, Jagan has so far not spelt out his priorities vis a vis state capital. He left the matter to his colleagues in the cabinet who added by their utterances more confusion instead of paving the path to move forward.

Many officials in Andhra Pradesh agree in private that Jagan did better by stalling the massive project because he could at least divert some funds to other projects, which are craving attention. For all those who invested in or wanted to reap real estate benefits from Amaravati, stalling the project is a monumental blunder. There is also a section of people who argue that shelving the project is the best option available to the government given the dire straits the state’s economy is in and the threat it poses to the fragile environment.

Against this backdrop, it is time to look at the concept of a world-class city. The idea of ‘World City’ was first put forth by late-twentieth-century urban theorist John Friedmann (1926-2017). The pompous aspect of the hypothesis, which Naidu fell in love with, is the integration of the city with the world economy.

Friedmann’s ‘World City’ envisages the concentration of corporate headquarters, international finance, global transport and communications, and a high level of business services. These, in turn, contribute to the economic growth for both upper-level workers and low wage labourers. These centres, according to Friedmann’s hypothesis, operate as metropolis like New York, Los Angeles and Paris and function as centres for the production and dissemination of information, news, entertainment and other cultural artefacts. As World Cities, they attract increasing immigration, which leads to the expansion of the informal economy.

Studies, meanwhile, reveal that while some nations and cities did draw benefits from the World Cities, others slipped into international debt, ultimately defeating its primary objective.

Citing the case of Astana, the Kazakhstan capital, many argue that the cost of a world-class city status often outweighs the fiscal capacity of the state. Finally, the burden of global capital accumulation would shift to the politically weakest and most disorganised sections of the population. They also argue that the police repression in the name of corporate and state interests further marginalise weaker sections of a World-Class City.

Assuming that political and caste rivalry has driven Jagan to abandon the World Class Amaravati project, many defend him by stating that it is the best option available given the global economic slowdown.

Now it all depends on Jagan’s ability to silence critics by offering a viable and democratic alternative to the corporate-friendly and people-hostile World Class City.

Jinka Nagaraju

Jinka Nagaraju is a Hyderabad based journalist. He covered the entire spectrum of political activities of Telugu states from Hyderabad and New Delhi for about 3 decades. He represented Vaartha in New Delhi during the most happening decade of 1996-2006. He was political correspondent of Times of India from Hyderabad for 10 years. He was editor of Asianet’s Telugu digital platform. He contributed to many digital media outlets such as Al Jazeera, News 18, Newsable, South Post, The Lede ,Down to Earth etc. He is known for his Anthropological approach in the news analysis. He studied Physical Anthropology and prehistoric archaeology with Human population genetics as specialization, and his area of interest is Political Anthropology and Media Anthropology.

2 comments on "Does Jagan have an alternative to the Amaravati World-Class Illusion?"

  • Chandrababu presents visuals and hypes with the help of media but the real agenda was real estate at the cost of destruction of environment. It is not new to him. In the case of Shamshabad Airport, to help real estate he shifted airport 2200 acres in to Himayatsagar catchment that is under GO111 which was upheld by the Supreme Court and put precautionary principle. Supreme Court order relates to Chandrababu’s permission to polluting industry in violation of GO111. Also outer ring road phase-I enclosed the the Himayatsagar and causing floods in Rajendranagar by not allowing rainwater flowing in to Himayatsagar [This year with heavy and good rains, Himayatsagar did not get inflows]. With this real estate groups put illigal layouts in Himayatsagar and Osmansagar catchment areas against GO111. Even in the case of Amaravati, he did not care the recommendations of Srikrishna committee report. In both the cases at the cost of destruction of environment he wanted real estate ventures running in to lakhs of crores. Naturally who invested there blame Jagan but what about the fertili land? We all know the quality of construction of temporary buildings — leaking &V sinking — [this was also seen in the case of Pattiseema]. With such a poor quality construction, do you expect class city!!!

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

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