ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Speculation and Weak Foundations

Andhra Pradesh's Master Plan for Its New Capital

Amaravati, the planned new capital of Andhra Pradesh, is to be set up in a highly fertile, multi-cropped area in the Guntur-Krishna belt where the water table is just 15 to 20 feet below the surface. The Government of Andhra Pradesh has been aggressively pursuing land pooling through a series of not-too-friendly measures to acquire land for the capital which will be located in a low- to medium-risk flood area. Where the Singapore consultancy's master plan for the new city, Amaravati, falters is in not visualising the need to accommodate low-income residents and the informal sector in the new capital, and in its exaggerated projections of employment generation in the information technology sector.

As a delegation from Singapore, led by the island-state’s Home Minister, S Ishwaran, submitted the master plan for the Amaravati capital city on 20 July 2015 to the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh (AP), N Chandrababu Naidu, computer-simulated images of the new urban mega project, the “dream capital,” which looked like those on brochures of mega real estate ventures, appeared prominently in the local media. The master plan prepared by Surbana International Consultants, the urban consultancy firm from Singapore envisages the new capital city to be “the pioneer Smart City of India” with “world-class standards set forth by countries such as Singapore” (Surbana 2015: 76). The Chief Minister has been promoting this city as a “people’s capital” and a “21st century city.” It has been argued that such projects win legitimacy through, among others, seductive media images, and are often backed by new forms of coercion (Sheppard et al 2013).

After the bifurcation of AP into Telangana and a separate AP from 2 June 2014, Hyderabad is the joint capital for up to 10 years, by which time AP should have its own capital city. The Government of India had earlier appointed an expert committee headed by former union urban development secretary K C Sivaramakrishnan to study various alternatives on the new capital for AP. The committee submitted its report in August 2014 after consultations with different stakeholders across AP (Report of the Expert Committee 2014). Its terms of reference had included, among others, the least dislocation of the existing agriculture systems. The committee cautioned against establishing a greenfield capital and diverting fertile farmland, especially in the Krishna–Guntur region. It recommended decentralised development and a smaller capital where government land was available.

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