In Photos: When a Place Slowly Transforms into the Capital City of Amaravati

A photo essay documents the transformation of the economic landscape. 


In the three years since it was decided that Amaravati would be the new capital of Andhra Pradesh, the transformation of the area has been pronounced. From the 29 villages considered to be sleepy backwaters to becoming the centre of administration, the outward appearance has changed. 

Trucks ferrying construction material, government vehicles zipping past and heavy police presence is the new normal. Infrastructure has vastly improved, houses are being built or extended to be rented out. Real estate frenzy and speculation has slowed down. Old structures are constantly being torn down or converted. 

Since early February 2018, Andhra Pradesh is back on the boil, albeit a tad lower than pre-bifurcation days. The slow pace of capital building has been a topic for debate and the blame–game continues. 


Laying the foundations for the legislators quarters. All images by author.


Since the announcement of the capital in the region, the local economy has moved in phases: from agricultural production, to land speculation, to orientation towards the service sector.  Those with some property—agricultural land or house sites—have benefitted while others have clearly lost out. The business of serving newcomers in the administration or work contracts related to the formation of the new capital is booming. Two streams of economic activity are discernible. Services related to (a) renting, restaurants, bars and informal shared transport for the new inhabitants and, (b) those providing ancillary and support services to capital construction.  


Sobering Land Speculation


Two years ago, real estate speculation was the most important economic activity here. Real estate consultancy and broking establishments, which came up in kiosks and houses seem to be a shadow of their past. The “offices” of such brokers have either shut shop or are no longer centres of activity. Many have only a helper to offer some information.


An advertisement


Brokers now maintain a low profile often seeking out curious visitors on an individual basis rather than operating through offices or establishments. In the past, price quotes were in terms of acres; today, it is square yards. 


Agriculture: On the Way Out


Agriculture, once the mainstay of the economy has mostly faded into the background. Many had opted to offer their land to the government under “land pooling” and have now moved out of agriculture. It is now more profitable to rent out their property than undertake farming. Only the occasional field is tended in the area. 


Selling produce to passers-by 


Sometimes, the contrast is visible on a few stretches of the road: tended fields on one side and tended fields and land resembling wastelands on the other. 


On the left, the land given to the governement under land pooling. On the right, a field with onion saplings.


Large swathes are either untended or are used to grow grass for cattle. In the past bananas and vegetables were cultivated in the fertile areas. There is the occasional unintended beneficiary of this stark contrast—the owner of a flock of sheep. 


Unexpected bounty


Food Outlets have Mushroomed


A new addition to the local economy is the increase in food outlets in the villages catering to different classes. Those catering to people with limited means are blossoming and do a roaring business—especially on working days. They often wear a deserted look on a government holiday. 


A new up-market restaurant


The increase in the number of upmarket restaurants has surprised many locals. In one case, an old cinema theatre in a decrepit condition has been converted to an upscale restaurant.  


Visible Infrastructure Building


A recently constructed road leading to the new assembly building. 


Infrastructure has improved. Old roads have been repaired and expanded. New roads leading to the administrative complex and legislative assembly have been laid or are in different stages of completion. Those who can afford it can now access almost anything in their own or the neighbouring village compared to the past when they had to go to either Guntur or Vijayawada. There are now one or more banks in each village as well as restaurants, mobile shops, motorcycle and car showrooms. 

The impact of construction activity related to administrative infrastructural needs is an important aspect of the local economy. These are mostly centred on road laying and building residences for the elected representatives, living quarters for officers and employees and construction on the government residential complex is expected to start soon. 


Making slow progress


There is no doubt that the changes triggered by establishment of the capital and the related benefits are increasingly discernible in the villages. It is now possible to identify the winners and losers, though the scale of impact may not be easy to calculate. Those with even a small piece of property, those who have been entrepreneurial, or politically savvy have clearly benefitted beyond their imagination because of this transformation.

The influx of people, government agencies, businesses and banks has only helped the villages further this transformation. However, the pace of transformation does not match the initial hype which fuelled expectations of a breakneck transformation of the region. Of course, like any other large scale fundamental transformation, the capital building has its set of losers. The most obvious are the agricultural labourers who have been unable to shift to providing labour in non-agricultural segments. 

An often forgotten effect of capital building is that its impact is being felt far beyond the boundaries of the two districts of Krishna and Guntur. Among the more severely affected are the migrant labourers from the neighbouring Kurnool district who are increasingly being forced to look for employment during summer months in other cities like Hyderabad and Bengaluru. 

The changes have fulfilled dreams for a few while for the others, the slow pace of infrastructure construction and capital building is a dream gone awry.

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