cities

Andhra Pradesh govt repeals laws on 3 capitals, promises better Bill

Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy was to construct three capitals — Amaravati as Legislative capital, Visakhapatnam as the Executive capital, and Kurnool as the Judicial capital.

THE ANDHRA Pradesh assembly Monday unanimously passed a Bill to repeal two laws that were cleared last year as part of the YSRCP government’s contentious move to set up three different state capitals instead of proceeding with the previous TDP regime’s plan to develop the current capital of Amaravati.

Speaking on the floor of the assembly, Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy promised to introduce a “better” and “comprehensive” Bill after plugging loopholes in the previous version. He did not mention any timeframe.

Referring to opposition from farmers in Amaravati, where the previous government had acquired vast tracts of land to develop a capital, he said “arguments were pushed that injustice was being meted out to some”.

“In such a background, to explain the need for decentralisation of development and the government’s good intentions in bringing the three capitals Bill… to incorporate in the Bill answers to all legal questions, to make the Bill more clear and better, to explain extensively to all regions, to make any other amendments if necessary, the government is withdrawing the Bill introduced earlier,” he said.

The Chief Minister said that the government “will again bring a comprehensive and better Bill to the House”. “We are taking this decision in the larger public interest,” he said.

Amaravati question

In November 2019, the YSRCP government had scrapped the TDP regime’s development project in Amaravati that was awarded to a Singapore consortium and its Indian partners. Monday’s move raises the key question of whether the capital blueprint is back on track.

The AP Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Repeal Bill, 2021, was introduced in the assembly by Finance Minister Bugganna Rajendranath Reddy to scrap the AP Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Act, 2020, and AP Capital Region Development Authority Repeal Act, 2020, for the development of three capitals — Amaravati (legislative), Visakhapatnam (executive) and Kurnool (judicial).

Monday’s repeal Bill was introduced after Advocate General Subrahmanyam Sriram informed the Andhra Pradesh High Court of the government’s decision in an affidavit. The court was hearing a batch of petitions challenging the passing of the two laws for the three capitals.

The YSRCP has an overwhelming majority of 151 in the 175-member Andhra assembly with the TDP elected to 23 seats and one seat going to Jana Sena in the 2019 elections.

After forming the government, the YSRCP had decided to reverse the previous government’s decision to construct the capital in Amaravati, between Vijayawada and Guntur. In November 2017, the then TDP government, led by N Chandrababu Naidu, had inaugurated an interim secretariat in Amaravati.

In the assembly Monday, Chief Minister Reddy blamed the previous government for choosing Amaravati and said the location lacked basic infrastructure, such as roads and drainage.

“Just to have basic infrastructure, Amaravati needs Rs 1 lakh crore. The costs will rise to Rs 5-6 lakh crore in 10 years. Is it possible or right to mislead people?” he asked.

He added that the decision to have three capitals was to ensure equitable and balanced development of all regions of the state. However, he said, “several misconceptions, misleading information and legal hurdles” were created by TDP.

The Finance Minister, while introducing the Repeal Bill, blamed the lack of vision of past governments and concentration of development in and around Hyderabad as the reason for the present situation in Andhra Pradesh post bifurcation.

Despite being a revenue deficit state, the previous government proposed to acquire 50,000 acres of land in addition to taking 33,000 acres from farmers for construction of the new capital, he said.

Recalling the bifurcation of unified Andhra Pradesh and recommendations of the Centre-appointed expert panel to study alternatives for a new capital, the Minister said that the committee was against setting up a capital in the fertile Guntur-Vijayawada region and had advised decentralisation of development.

Later Monday, TDP’s national general secretary and Chandrababu Naidu’s son, Nara Lokesh, blamed the government for “spreading untruths and half-truths” about the previous government’s vision for a state capital.

Lokesh alleged that Jagan went into the 2019 elections with a promise to develop Amaravati and was now “playing mind games” with the people and acting “without a sense of commitment or responsibility”. “Unfortunately, the Chief Minister was not able to spell out a clear stance on his plan for the state capital and the overall development of the state,” he said.

Somu Veerraju, president of BJP’s AP unit, said the government has repealed the laws fearing adverse orders from the High Court. He asked the Chief Minister to discuss the issue with all political parties and seek public opinion before taking any decision on decentralisation.

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