Hyderabad: Alleged as a big real estate scam, the controversial Amaravati capital project has never found favour with environmentalists, intellectuals, rights activists and the people of other regions in the state.
The capital, projected by the then chief minister Chandrababu Naidu as a world-class city, has always been seen with suspicion. Charges of partisan business interests, ruling -caste angle, nepotism have tarnished the image of the project.
And the way Naidu bulldozed all the alternative ideas delivered in the form of Sivaramakrishnan committee has also cast a shadow on the project.Splurging money on study tours to world-class cities has made it the butt of a joke.
Ultimately, during Naidu's term, the project could not move beyond temporary structures to house Assembly, secretariat, etc.
The project could neither cajole the investors nor rally the voters in support of Naidu. It was an electoral disaster. Naidu's Telugu Desam Party suffered huge losses at ground zero.
It is now clear that chief minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy is all set to demolish the concept of world-class capital. Though tentative in nature, he announced a polycentric state, with three capitals viz judicial, legislative and executive.
In fact, the idea has been in the air for quite some time. By announcing the novel idea of three capitals for three regions, he sought to dispel the criticism that he had no alternative plan to Amravati.
Chief Minister Jagan sounded practical when he said that state finances could not afford him to take up construction of the world-class city of Naidu's dreams at the cost of pressing welfare programs. This reminds us of the letter former GOI Secretary Dr EAS Sarma (1965 batch IAS officer) wrote to Ravichandra, the then finance secretary, in last August 2018.
Analyzing the budget proposals, Dr Sarma, who is an active defender of the rule of law, said, "more than 62 per cent of the amount borrowed by the state during 2018-19 will go towards interest payments alone. With increasing borrowings resorted to by the state, the position will soon worsen further. This will leave no room for genuine developmental activity. This will progressively shrink the productive investment of the state on education, health, rural development, Transport, and so on."
Stating that the state government was planning to weave dreams about a grandiose capital city near Amaravati against this backdrop, Dr Sarma also pointed out how the state had resorted to high-cost Amaravati bonds which are bound to deteriorate the state's payments position further.
Amaravati, according to Dr Sarma, has unleashed all-round destruction: the destruction of the economy, livelihood, environment etc. "The capital has replaced highly remunerative agricultural activity that not only fed the state's population but also provided gainful livelihoods to lakhs of farmers, agricultural workers and artisans dependent on agriculture, "he added questioning, "Can Amaravati which consists of largely of unreliable, speculative real estate activity, make for such a high social cost?" he wrote in the letter.
Continuing rapacious Amaravati construction is bound to engender regional tensions as the world-class city presents no scope to address the regional aspiration as developing other cities goes antithetical to the model.
Already trouble is brewing in Rayalaseema which is demanding location of capital at Kurnool as per Sri Bagh Pact. Murmurs of dissent are clearly audible from North Andhra as well. The people of the region want the High Court to be located at Vizag.
As for three capitals, the idea is not new and is slowly catching up globally for historical and regional reasons.
Bolivia has two capitals, La Paz and Sucre. So is The Netherlands. While Amsterdam remains the capital, Hague is the seat of parliament and the Dutch government.
On the other hand, South Africa has three capitals: CapeTown, Bloemfontein and Pretoria.
Chile (Santiago and Valparaiso), Georgia (Georgia and Kutaisi), Malaysia ( Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya), South Korea (Seol and Sejong), Sri Lanka (Colombo and Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte) are a few more examples.
Now chief minister Jagan has to adhere to the idea of three capitals to disprove the criticism that the announcement is only made keeping in mind the ensuing elections to the municipalities in the state.