Andhra Pradesh government on Monday moved a historic bill in the legislative assembly to have three separate capitals for the three arms of state with Amaravati as legislative capital, Visakhapatnam as executive capital and Kurnool as judicial capital of Andhra Pradesh.
With this government decision, the upcoming green-field city of Amaravati prematurely ceases to be the sole capital of the state or the seat of power as was envisioned by the previous government.
Termed as the ‘Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Act, 2020,’ the new bill seeks to relocate the secretariat, offices of the heads of the government departments and Raj Bhavan at Vizag, which is designated as the executive capital.
By becoming home to the offices of chief minister, governor and the entire top-rung of the official establishment, the port city of Vizag would become the new capital of Andhra Pradesh for all practical purposes.
Designated as the judicial capital, Kurnool city will have the state high court and other judicial institutions under the new scheme of arrangement under the new legislation. The three cities are located in three distinct regions of the state- Andhra, North Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema.
The passage of the bill is only a formality as the ruling YSR Congress Party commands a strength of 151 out of 175 seats in the state assembly.
Defending its decision as a means to achieve a decentralised and an equitable development, chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy government said, “AP since its inception in 1956 had failed to integrate the people of the state from all regions culturally and emotionally and in sharing the fruits of development as it did not cater to the aspirations of people of all regions within the state.”
Citing the Telangana movement and subsequent bifurcation as the result of this lopsided development pursued by successive governments, the state government warned that history would repeat if the course correction was not made.
“Article 38 of the Constitution envisages that the state shall direct its policy, among other things, towards securing inclusive development of all regions of the state. To give effect to this constitutional provision, the state of Andhra Pradesh is bringing forth this legislation, for distribution of all state functions among all the regions and decentralisation of the various institutions of the state, its departments, its instrumentalities etc. in its efforts to ensuring balanced and inclusive growth of the state,” state finance minister Buggana Rajandranath said while explaining the objectives after tabling the bill in the house.
Meanwhile, Amaravati witnessed widespread protests against the legislation and incidents of stone pelting against police in bandobast duty were reported throughout the day. Inside the house, the opposition Telugu Desam Party(TDP) members led by its leader Chandrababu Naidu raised their protests demanding status quo for Amaravati as capital city.
Alongside the new legislation for three capitals, the government moved a legislation seeking to repeal the Capital Region Development Authority(CRDA) Act under which Amaravati was created by the previous government. The functions and obligations of CRDA will now be transferred to Amaravati Metropolitan Development Authority.
The metropolitan development authority regions of Amaravati, Vizag and Kurnool will now be considered as the three capitals.
As part of the decentralisation of governance, the government would also establish the regional development boards with powers and functions of overseeing the development plans of respective regions and would also seeks to carve the existing 13 districts into 25 districts in line with the 25 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state, according to the new Act.
Chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy first disclosed his three-capital idea on December 17, attracting a huge backlash from the farmers of Amaravati villages, who gave their lands for the capital city development under the land pooling scheme back in 2015 and 2016.
Former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who was the political architect of Amaravati, has led the political protests while lending support to the cause of Amaravati farmers, who fear loosing the real-estate value to their share of lands if the state capital functions move to other places.
In a bid to assuage the feelings of Amaravati farmers, municipal administration minister Botsa Satyanarayana announced that the period of annuity to their lands will be extended by five years in addition to the ten-year annuity promised by the previous government. Under this scheme, all those farmers who gave their lands to the government will get Rs 1 lakh per acre in case of a wet land and Rs 60,000 per acre in case of dry land every year as a compensation as a transitory gesture.