Capital games: As Amaravati’s lustre fades, farmers stare at bleak future

G Naga Sridhar Hyderabad | Updated on August 07, 2020 Published on August 07, 2020

A file picture of a protest in Vijayawada   -  THE HINDU

The land given by farmers for the Capital cannot be cultivated now

Farmers in the Amaravati belt who had bought into the hype of a world class capital city are finding their dreams turning to dust.

Till August 14, Amaravati will stay Andhra Pradesh’s capital thanks to the High Court staying a move by the Jagan Mohan Reddy government to shift its command centre to Visakhapatnam.

But it will be a short reprieve, fear farmers who gave 33,000 acres of agricultural land to the earlier Chandrababu Naidu government through a land-pooling pact for construction of the new capital.

The turbulent capital games in Andhra Pradesh has led to farmers in the Amaravati region fearing a severe economic as well as social crisis. Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s decision to have three capitals — an executive one at Visakhapatnam, a judicial one at Kurnool and a legislative one at Amaravati — led to a crash in land prices in the Amaravati region.

“Until last year, it was easy for parents to find matches for their daughters here but now brides from Amaravati region are not preferred,” says MS Narendra Prasad, a farmer from Krishnayapalem village in Mangalagiri Mandal of Andhra Pradesh.

Farmers also fear about their future livelihood as for six years the land in the area has not been cultivated. The once lush green and beautiful fields in the villages of Nelapadu, Rayapudi, Mandadam, Tullur, Krishnayapalem now resemble a ghost town with semi completed structures and idle construction equipment.

“The land is now neither cultivable nor suitable for other structures,” laments farmer KS Reddy. “We are not concerned with politics. We did not give to a party or a person but trusted the government and gave all we had. We need justice,” says Prasad who gave 28 acres of his farm land for the new capital. The farmers have filed a case.

Compensation dilemma

“The problem is how to compensate the farmers. The land cannot be returned in the same form in which it was given as roads and other structures have been built. How farmers can be compensated is an issue,” he said.

Even if the government honours land pooling agreement, the tenancy amount of ₹50,000 per acre per year for Zarib (irrigated) and ₹30,000 per Metta (dryland) can be given only for a period of 10 years. “What next? How do we earn livelihood after that?” questions Prasad.

The tenancy amount has been paid to farmers till last year. However, with the annulment of AP CRDA Act which has now been replaced by Amaravati Metropolitan Development Authority, there is no clarity on whether farmers will get the payment of tenancy this year.

‘Realty’ bites

It’s not just the farmers. The real estate companies too are floundering. According to locals, there have been practically no real estate transactions in the region during the last 16 months.

During Amaravati’s dream run, when the capital construction project was on, the price per acre here had shot up to ₹3.5-4 crore. Now even at ₹25-40 lakh per acre, there are no buyers.

“Apart from our firm, there are many real estate firms who invested in land around the Amaravati capital region. It is tough to keep afloat,”' said the managing director of a real estate firm on the condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, a blame game is on between the ruling YSRCP and the opposition Telugu Desam Party on who is responsible for the farmers’ woes. While the State Government is pushing the “advantages”' of a decentralised capital model, the TDP is alleging political motives behind the move.

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Published on August 07, 2020
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