ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Foundation for the Dreams

Andhra Pradesh Capital Development Story

S Ananth (sananth99@gmail.com) is an independent researcher currently based in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh.

In six months, the new capital region in Andhra Pradesh seems to have picked up a frenetic pace in infrastructure development. While speculation over land seems to have ebbed, the changing pattern of life based on the financial promises of an industrial–administrative complex is visible. This is the third instalment in a series of photo essays on Andhra Pradesh’s new capital region. The other two essays are here and here

Six months seem to be a long time in the life of the new Andhra Pradesh (AP) capital villages. Rapid changes in the way of life and infrastructure are clearly visible. The most obvious changes are visible in the realm of infrastructure that is gradually being built in most of the villages. House construction and houses getting a new coat of paint cannot be missed. The ownership of new vehicles including cars, motorcycles and tractors in the villages is unprecedented and probably never been witnessed at any point in the history of the region.

End of a Way of Life

The relative success of land pooling means that most of the land offered through pooling is not tended any more. These untended fields are a marked change compared to six months ago. In cases where farmer do tend the fields, they are literally scrambling to cart their last crop to the markets.  A farmer rued that those who have not offered their land through pooling are likely to be forced to reconsider their decision because tenant farmers are not willing to risk taking their land on lease due to too many uncertainties. As agriculture as a way of livelihood is fading there is an increase in cost of vegetables that traditionally were grown in the region.

Clearing is a 24-hour job

The most visible activity is clearing of land for the capital foundation ceremony and to extend the roads. Though clearing work in the village where the foundation ceremony and the attendant puja is scheduled gains maximum coverage, road expansion and laying drains is underway in most of the capital villages. 

Rapid Road Extension Now the Norm

The forthcoming capital city foundation ceremony has the state government racing to complete various infrastructure activities like clearing land, expanding existing roads, laying new roads and building drains. The government estimates that about two lakh people will grace the occasion. Unless the road extension work is completed the villages clearly cannot host such large numbers. Residents are flabbergasted at the pace at which the infrastructure works are underway. It is common to find infrastructure/clearing equipment for every 200 m. The frenzied pace of work often clogs the road network. A couple of months ago the problem was too much traffic on narrow roads; now, it is the case of too many pieces of heavy equipment—each trying to beat their deadlines.

A new feature in the lives of the villages is that for the first time, a number of households have had to give up some part of house plots for road extension activities. 

Udandarayunipalem: Obscure Village to Administrative Core

All roads lead to Udandarayunipalem (population 350 households according to the 2011 Census), the village selected for the capital foundation ceremony on 22nd October and one that will be graced by the Prime Minister. The village will never be the same again and its topography has been completely altered. Machines work round the clock with trucks, tractors and water tankers carrying material chocking the roads leading to it. Official vehicles carrying VIPs (government officials) overseeing arrangements for Most Important Persons (or MIPs as they are referred by the government officials and local press) stream in and out of the proposed venue. Government out-of-home advertisements add their might by marketing the dreams of high rise buildings, roads and other “modern” infrastructure that can be expected in the new capital. 

Clearing and levelling (picture below) the proposed site for the ceremony is a round-the-clock work-in-progress encompassing large tracts of land just outside the habited parts of the village. The roads leading to the venue are in the process of being expanded, temporary arrangements for helipads, stage, etc are under construction at a brisk pace. All of a sudden tractors with a trolley are in great demand. 

Following the Scent of Money

The number of banks inaugurating branches in the capital villages continues to grow rapidly in the villages. While Thullur village boasts of nearly a dozen banks, almost each village is now getting their own branch. In other words, the capital villages have been transformed from mostly under-banked villages to well-banked and even overbanked villages. At times, community members have been quick to capitalise on new business opportunities—as in the case of an internet centre quickly becoming a business correspondent outlet for a bank, opening hotels, etc.

Picture Below a branch under construction

Along with the banks, car and motorcycle marketing teams seem to have become hyperactive. Prospective customers gather around a makeshift motorcycle marketing kiosk (picture below):

Real Estate Speculation is Back with a Bang

In an economy that has a rich tradition of speculation, it not surprising that land speculation has regained momentum in the capital villages, especially those in the close vicinity Udandarayunipalem (the village where the foundation ceremony is due to be held on 22 October). Brokers point out that land values have started their ascent after remaining subdued for a few months. In the villages in the immediate vicinity of the foundation ceremony, land values now exceed Rs 2 crores an acre—far beyond their previous peak of Rs 1.5–1.8 crores.

An interesting aspect of most the real estate brokerages is that the old names have disappeared and new banners have taken their place.

The Older Brokerage (in December 2014)

The new one... claims to be with the blessings of the old brokerage:

The Costs are Going to be High

A discernible feature of the hectic pace of capital foundation ceremony is the cost to the environment in the capital villages and to individual households. Undoubtedly, some of these costs are temporary in nature but a lot of these costs will have to borne over the long term and ones that cannot be easily computed or replaced.

Picture below indicates that hills and trees are making way for the new capital. An old woman sit at the entrance to her house after encroachments on to the road were demolished.  

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