“Politics is not a game, but a serious business.” said Winston Churchill, and the prevailing political climate surrounding the development of Amaravati justifies this quote.
The conceptualisation of Amaravati as a world-class city with state-of-the-art amenities made it a global hotspot for investment. The estimated budget of developing Amaravati as the greenfield capital city was quoted over INR 1 lakh crore.
The planning and development of Amaravati involved capital generation from the Central government as well as international investors such as the World Bank, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and other public-private partnerships and bonds.
But, the change of power in the Andhra Pradesh state assembly has left the fate of Amaravati hanging mid-air. The investments of all stakeholders, land developments, and effort has now been put in a questionable position because of the present state government’s charges pressed against the former one.
Following the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 2014, Hyderabad, the then capital of the state, was located in Telangana (newly formed state). This surfaced the opportunity to create a new capital city for Andhra Pradesh. Hence, the Telugu Desam Party that formed the government in Andhra Pradesh from 2014-2019 proposed the development of a sustainable capital city – Amaravati. As a result, the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority Act (APCRDA) was formed in 2014 to lay out the plan for Amaravati.
In 2015, land pooling activities and tender invitations had begun. 33,000 acres of fertile land across the river basin of Krishna was voluntarily handed over by local farmers to express their affinity towards the state. The Singapore Government appointed architects to chalk out a plan for Amaravati as the happiest city in the world. The British architect Norman Foster was appointed to design the centrally located “Capitol Complex” comprising the state legislative assembly, the high court, and the other public buildings.
With such skyrocketing promises and fast-pacing developments, Amaravati soon garnered global attention. Touted as “The People’s Capital”, Amaravati was envisioned to be a self-sustaining city that would have been modern yet locally – relevant.
However, after the YSR Congress Party took charge of Andhra Pradesh state affairs in 2019, the lightning speed of Amaravati’s development came to a grinding halt. The state government formed by YSR Congress Party in 2019 stated that the previous government led by N. Chandrababu Naidu committed abuse of information and insider trading on several properties in Amaravati. The developments in Amaravati have been in dispute ever since. Although the infrastructure and construction work in Amaravati undertaken by private companies continue to progress, the project deadline is nowhere in sight. The present government has appointed numerous committees for review and the case is presently being dealt with by the Andhra Pradesh High Court.
The Ghost City
Amaravati, proposed as the pride of Andhra Pradesh, has been deserted since 2019. Due to the absence of considerable developments, Amaravati is now being titled as India’s Ghost City. The half-constructed public buildings in the Capitol Complex are now vulnerable to encroachments and dilapidation.
The other residential, commercial, and institutional buildings in Amaravati present a desolate picture with monolithic cranes and cement mixtures on site. The sudden slowdown on all land developments has put the employability of wage workers and contractors in a dubious position. The fertile lands along the banks of River Krishna are now home to concrete blocks rather than coastal ecology.
After slowing down the developments in Amaravati since 2019, the YSR Congress government proposed and passed the Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Act in 2020. This proposal allows the government to create 3 capital cities namely Amaravati (legislative capital), Visakhapatnam (executive capital), and Kurnool (judicial capital).
The sudden change of course in Amaravati’s development put the investors off guard, which made them withdraw their investments from the debatable project. With no clarity of thought, limited budget, and increasing political pressure, the story of Amaravati is shaping up to be a never-ending saga.
Andhra Pradesh has been facing an acute political crisis and difference of opinions since the passing of the decentralisation bill. The farmers who voluntarily submitted their agricultural lands for the construction of the ambitious Amaravati city are now left in the lurch. Twenty-nine villages across Guntur and Krishna districts that were home to lush agricultural fields are now left abandoned.
These farmers were promised 1,000 square yards (ca. 8 a) of residential plots and 250 square yards (ca. 2 a) of commercial plots with basic infrastructure to support their living. They were also promised INR 50,000 annuity per acre with an annual hike of 10%. However, with the sudden change of plan, the realisation of these promises has been paused. Now left landless and homeless, these farmers are protesting against the decentralisation bill in the hope to restore Amaravati as “the only capital” of Andhra Pradesh.
In 2019, Labour union leaders across Mandadam, Velagapudi, Venkatapalem, and Krishnayapalem called for “bandhs” as a sign of protest. The slogan of “Jai Amaravati” has been echoing in Andhra Pradesh in an attempt to restart the work towards Amaravati.
In March 2022, the Andhra Pradesh High Court passed its judgement on the impending case of Amaravati’s fate. The court directed the state government to develop and build Amaravati as the capital city within the agreed timeline of 6 months under the APCRDA. Further, it stated that the Andhra Pradesh state assembly had no legislative competence to pass any bill for change, bifurcation, or trifurcation of the capital city. This judgement has preempted the state government to revive its decentralised “three-capital” proposal, thereby prevailing Amaravati as the state’s only capital. The judgement has ushered a wave of happiness amongst the protesting farmers and provided the much-needed direction to Amaravati’s future.
Although this recent judgement has laid the foundation stone for restoring faith in the pivotal Amaravati project, the road ahead is still unclear. Restarting or refuelling such a gigantic project requires generous capital flow, damage control and restoration. The loss of time and vigour has also significantly impacted the project, with design ideas getting lost in the process. With the state government still having the option to approach the Supreme Court and the President for challenging the High Court’s judgement, it is only time to tell if the ambitious Amaravati city project sails or sinks.
- Amaravati is ‘the’ capital, rules HC
- Govt. should revive Amaravati master plan for State’s growth, says Naidu
- Why Amaravati, Naidu’s dream capital, is fast becoming a ghost town
- Jagan govt will go to SC if needed, says minister, after HC order to make Amaravati sole capital
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