National

Capital blues: Road Ahead for Andhra Pradesh

G Naga Sridhar Hyderabad | Updated on November 23, 2021

YS Jagan Mohan Reddy   -  The Hindu

The repeal of the controversial laws aimed at decentralisation of the Greenfield capital at Amaravati by the Andhra Pradesh government opens up a plethora of possibilities to address various concerns.

The Andhra Pradesh Assembly on Monday passed the two Bills introduced by the State’s Finance Minister Buggana Rajendranath Reddy, which seek to repeal the Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Act 2020 and AP Capital Regional Development Authority Act.

The Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy said the repealed Acts will be replaced by a comprehensive Decentralisation Bill, addressing various concerns and grievances.

According to reliable sources, the legal tangles in getting the three-Capital cities acts sanctioned by the High Court which is hearing a slew of PILs on the matter now and a strategy to win over agitating farmers who gave about 34,000 acres of land under land pooling for formation of Amaravati by doling out more concessions and future political implications have influenced the decision of the Chief Minister to repeal the acts.

The farmers have been agitating for close to two years now since they are worried about the loss of benefits promised to them under the land pooling system.

Amaravati was envisaged as the capital of Andhra Pradesh, after Telangana was carved out of unified Andhra Pradesh in 2014, by the previous TDP-led State government with N Chandrababu Naidu as chief minister.

But in 2019 YSR Congress came to power in the State and brought in the concept of three capital cities with the legislature at Amaravati, the executive at Visakhapatnam and the judicial capital at Kurnool.

Not a reversal

The statements made by the Chief Minister in Assembly on the decision clearly indicates that the fate of Amaravati will remain as it is now and he still stands by his previous choice of Visakhapatnam as executive capital for the State.

The government feels that as the biggest city in the State, Visakhapatnam has all the infrastructure to be capital and as observed by the Chief Minister, a little value addition to Vizag can make it compete with bigger cities like Hyderabad.

Further, going by the populist approach of the State government which has been devoting nearly half of its budget on a slew of welfare schemes introduced after it came to power, it is unlikely that it will ignore the agitating farmers from 30 villages who had given land for Amaravati, and will make an attempt for reconciliation ahead of next assembly elections in 2024.

“A thorough re-examination of all possibilities to lessen the loss for the farmers is likely to be taken up by the government before coming up with a revised bill on decentralisation of capitals. The tenancy amount to be paid to farmers has already been hiked by the State government recently. Other commitments made to farmers as per AP CRDA Act are being looked into a fresh,” a senior official told BusinessLine.

The new Bill to be introduced will also have to be aligned with Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act of 2014 so that it will pass the legal scrutiny.

Recent observations by AP High Court on the shift of High Court to Kurnool and its legal implications as per the act might have been noted by the government, according to legal experts.

Timeline

Interestingly, the Government did not give any time line for introduction of new bills for decentralised capitals and insiders in the ruling party and bureaucracy feel that it may not happen immediately.

“The Chief Minister made it very clear in the Assembly that had decentralisation taken place immediately after the Bill was in January 2020 things would have been different. But it got delayed. This time, there could be speedy execution of plans once the new Bill is cleared giving little scope for legal tangles,” a senior advocate of AP High Court said.

Published on November 23, 2021

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