Tughluq revisited? AP govt employees rue yet another capital shift

G Naga Sridhar Updated on January 23, 2020
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy

Thousands of staffers who’ve just begun to build roots in Amaravati gear up for move to Visakhapatnam

“It’s like a never ending journey for us and our families. This has never happened for government staff in any other State so far,” rued a Section Officer at the AP Secretariat in Amaravati, referring to the disruption likely to be caused to her family by the shifting the State’s executive capital to Visakhapatnam.

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The Andhra Pradesh government recently announced a move toward administrative decentralisation with executive, judiciary and legislative capitals at Visakhapatnam, Kurnool and Amaravati, respectively.

This necessitates the relocation of up to 8,000 secretariat staff members and 33 department heads under various categories from Amaravati. The total strength of AP government employees is 4.5 lakh.

For Andhra Pradesh, this will be the fourth capital change since its formation, in 1953 — from Chennai (then Madras) to Kurnool, and then to Hyderabad, Amaravati and Visakhapatnam (executive).

No single opinion

“We are neither supporting the decision nor opposing it in the larger interest of the State,” K Venkata Rami Reddy, President, AP Secretariat Employees Association (APSEA), told BusinessLine on Wednesday. “Employees are divided on the basis of the region they belong to, and there is no single opinion.”

While the State government’s position — that Amaravati would be too expensive to build per the original plan — is tenable, it could have opted for a financially simpler exercisewithout relocating the capital to Visakhapatnam, observed some officials.

It was only about three-and-a-half years ago that employees of the AP Secretariat, who were working in Hyderabad, had moved to Amaravati. The shift of the AP administration from Hyderabad, the capital that the State currently shares with Telangana, commenced in June 2016. It threw a lot of challenges for the staff in terms of accommodation, schooling and other facilities for family members.

“After shuttling (between the two cities) for over two years, only recently most of the employees moved their families to Amaravati. Shifting to a new place of work (again) will be a big agony,” said Srinivas Rao, an Assistant Section Officer.

Several Secretariat employees recently took up residence in Vijayawada (which is close to Amaravati), with hopes of getting accommodation in one of the official quarters which are nearing completion. Some had gone so far as to take a loan and invest in a new home. All these may now be for naught.

The APSEA will seek interest-free loans again from the government for employees who bought homes in Amaravati.

Citing history

“In history, all kings who shifted the capital or constructed new ones gave homes to employees. We will also demand the allocation of residential sites in the new executive capital,” said APSEA’s Rami Reddy.

While there is some disquiet among the employees, most are hesitant to express it for fear of ‘action’ in the way of transfers and other measures. “Of course, there are some — mainly women — who are worried about the need to relocate again due to family obligations,” said Rami Reddy.

Bureaucracy unhappy

The State bureaucracy, for one, is also not happy with the move. “Till date, our issues such as accommodation have not been addressed,” said a senior IAS officer. “The quarters which were ready to be completed have been halted. A fresh journey now is trouble again.” The matter has also been brought to the notice of the government, the officer said.

Some officers who will now be based in Visakhapatnam are concerned about having to attend Assembly sessions, which will be held in Amaravati.

Published on January 23, 2020

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