3 capital woes: Amaravati farmers pin their hopes on judiciary

Amaravati, Aug 2 (IANS) With Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government completing the legislative process for trifurcation of Andhra Pradesh capital, thousands of farmers of Amaravati whose dreams of a bright future lay shattered have pinned their last hopes on the judiciary.

The farmers in 29 villages resumed their protest after Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan cleared the two controversial Bills to create three capital cities and abolition of the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (APCRDA).

After a gap of three months due to Coronavirus induced lockdown, farmers returned to the streets to oppose YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) government's plan to trifurcate the state capital.

The protest spearheaded by Amaravati Parirakshana Joint Action Committee (JAC) entered 230th day on Sunday. It claimed that during the lockdown, the farmers continued the protest at their homes.

The governor on July 31 signed the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority Repeal Bill 2020 and Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Bill 2020, paving the way for shifting key capital functions from Amaravati.

With this development, Visakhapatnam is set to become the executive capital and Kurnool the judicial capital while Amaravati will be reduced to just legislative capital.

With the offices of the chief minister, governor, ministers and all top bureaucrats to be shifted to Visakhapatnam, for all practical purposes, the coastal city will become the seat of power. The high court will be shifted to Kurnool, making it the judicial capital.

Amaravati, which was originally planned as the only state capital and a world-class city, will serve as a mere legislative capital as the state legislature meets barley 50-60 days a year.

The repeal of the APCRDA, which was created for development of Amaravati as the state capital, paves the way for the formation of the Amaravati Metropolitan Region Development Authority.

The bills were passed by the governor on July 31, nearly two weeks after the state government sent the same for his assent.

The Bills were passed by the Assembly for the second time on June 16. Though they were not passed by the Legislative Council, they were considered as ‘deemed to be passed' as per Clause 2 of Article 197 of the Constitution as one month had elapsed after their introduction in the Upper House of the state legislature.

The Bills were first passed in the Assembly in January 2020, but the opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which has a majority in the 58-member Council, stalled them and got them referred to a Select Committee.

However, the Legislature officials had refused to constitute the Select Committee on the ground that Council Chairman M.A. Shariff's decision was not in line with the rules. Even as the matter landed in the high court, the Bills were passed again by the Assembly and sent to the governor without being passed in the Council.

Defending its move in the face of bitter attack by the Opposition, YSRCP government said three capitals would ensure real decentralisation and equitable development of all three regions – north coastal Andhra, south coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema.

It was on December 18 last year that Chief Minister Y. Jagan Mohan Reddy had announced a three-capital plan in the Assembly and two days later a panel of experts headed by retired IAS officer G.N. Rao committee submitted its report, suggesting decentralization of capital functions.

The government also roped in Boston Consultancy Group to study capital options and it too favoured decentralization while ruling out development of Amaravati as a Greenfield and world-class city due to high investment required and other factors.

Subsequently, a high-power committee consisting of ministers and senior bureaucrats studied the recommendations of the two panels and made its suggestions for developing three state capitals in three different regions.

Since then, Amaravati has been witnessing the protest by farmers, who had given their lands for development of the state capital five years ago in the hope of a bright future.

Farmers say ever since YSRCP came to power in May last year and mooted three-capital formula, uncertainty and anxiety had gripped them.

The move by Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government has triggered distress among 24,000 farmer families who had given 33,000 acres of land under land pooling scheme.

Then TDP government headed by Chandrababu Naidu had embarked on the mega plans to build Amaravati on the banks of Krishna river as the dream capital and a world-class city. Naidu had got its design prepared by the Singapore government.

For every acre cultivable land, the farmers were promised 1,000 square yards of residential plot and 250 square yards of commercial plot with all the infrastructure.

Almost all the farmers received the allotment papers with the dreams of owning developed plots. They were also promised Rs 50,000 annuity per acre with annual hike of 10 per cent.

However, all the construction activity, which was at its peak before elections last year, came to a grinding halt with change of guards. The new government also terminated all agreements including those with the Singapore companies.

The farmers feel betrayed by YSRCP as the party's election manifesto had no mention of three capitals.

The farmers supported by the opposition parties have now pinned their hopes on the High Court, where various petitions challenging three-capital plan, reports of various committees, CRDA Bill and non-implementation of Council chairman's order to constitute Select Committee to study the two Bills are pending.

“The farmers gave their lands as per an agreement with the government and the CRDA. How can CRDA be repealed when the case is pending in the court,” asked Amaravati Parirakshana Joint Action Committee (JAC) convenor A. Siva Reddy.

Muppala Subba Rao, state president of Indian Association of Lawyers believes that the governor's action in approving the Bills will not stand legally and constitutionally. He pointed out that Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act 2014 provides for one state capital and if the state government wants to have three capitals the law has to be amended.

“Similarly AP Reorganisation Act has to be amended for shifting the High Court to Kurnool. The state government or governor have no powers to shift the court,” he said and pointed out that the High Court has already stayed an order issued by the state government to shift the offices of Vigilance Commissioner and Commissioner of Inquiries to Kurnool.



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