Sunday, October 17, 2021

Year-Long agitation by Amaravati farmers

Amaravati : The farmers of Amaravati, the capital of Andhra Pradesh, would be completing  one year of their protest against the government’s policy of shifting the major components of the  capital on Thursday, 17 December 2020. The farmers, especially the women, have been waging a battle, demanding that the idea of three capitals should be dropped and the original one capital to the state of Andhra Pradesh be restored.

On Monday, hundreds of people participated in the Praja Pada Yatra to mark the 364th day of the stir. The programme was organized by Amaravati Parirakshana  Samithi Joint Action Committee (JAC) and the United Farmers’ Action Committee. People from different walks of life have taken part in the procession taken out from Padavala Revu centre to the BRTS road. ‘Jai Amaravati’ and ‘Save Amaravati’ were the slogans that rented the air. The series of protest programmes planned by JAC and Farmers’ Action Committee would culminate in a public meeting at Uddanadarayunipalem.

Farmers won’t give up:

JAC leaders Siva Reddy and Gadde Tirupati Rao said there was huge public response to the protest call that reflected the desire of the people to retain Amaravati as the only capital. The agitation would continue till the chief minister dropped his idea of three capitals, they said. It is a question of life and death for the families of 34,000 farmers who came forward to give their lands for the development of a world class city.  

The government led by YSRCP chief YS Jagan Mohan Reddy is yet to make a comprehensive offer to the farmers, in lieu of the capital if it is shifted away, who are worried about their future. Those who believed what was said by the previous government headed by Nara Chandrababu Naidu that they would be made rich are a worried lot now.

A dream was sold to farmers:

The farmers were made to believe that their lands will be pooled and a prestigious city would come in the area that would become very costly giving them rich dividends. When Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated in 2014, the residual State of Andhra Pradesh, bereft of Hyderabad, was left in the lurch. It had loans to clear and a promise that Polavaram, the lifeline for Andhras, would be regarded as a national project and would be completed at Centre’s cost. It was also promised that the Centre would give grant to build new capital. Granting a special status to Andhra Pradesh was another promise made by the present prime minister during his election campaign in 2014 which the BJP and the TDP fought together and won.

Naidu rushes to Vijayawada:

Originally, the AP Bifurcation Act 2014 envisaged that  Andhra Pradesh and Telangana State would be sharing Hyderabad as capital for ten years. But things had become too hot for Naidu to stay in Hyderabad and he went posthaste to Vijayawada to settle down there and build a capital. He had a huge dream of building a world class capital. But he had no money. He came up with a win-win idea of pooling farmers’ land, developing it by building the capital city and infrastructure and to enormously  raise the value of the land. The plan envisaged giving back to the farmers about 1200 yards of land for every one acre given in the pooling. The price of the land at that time was about Rs. 10 lakh per acre. They thought they could get more than a crore per acre if they give away their lands to the government. They were promised an annual rent for the lands  till the developed lands are handed over.

Where are former ministers?

About 25,400 landowners had given 34,281 acres of land to the government. 21,643 landless families were assured of monthly pension. Narayana, the then minister, went around the villages assuring the farmers that they would be befitted by the scheme envisaged by the chief minister. All the minister who were touring the villages persuading the farmers to give their lands for pooling are not to be seen when the farmers have been protesting. Only local leaders like former minister Devineni Umamaheswara Rao and others are seen giving the farmers moral and material support.

Elation, depression:

In December 2014 farmers were elated when the then chief minister, Chandrababu Naidu, got notified the development of capital in Amaravati region. Exactly five years later, in December 2019, the new government headed by YS Jagan Mohan Reddy got two Bills passed in Assembly. The Andhra Pradesh Decentralization of governance and inclusive development of all regions Bill 2020 and the APCRDA repeal Bill 2020 were given assent by Governor. The farmers were depressed and angry with the government for letting them down badly. Then Amaravati Parirakshana Samity Joint Action Committee was formed and an agitation was launched. It happened exactly one year ago.

CM offers small sops:

At the time of passing the Bills, Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy had announced that the annual payments would continue for 15 years instead of 10 years as decided by Naidu’s government. The pension for the landless poor was enhanced from Rs. 2,500 to Rs. 5,000 per month.

The decisions of the new government affected about 1.5 lakh people living in the villages where lands were pooled. The JAC had filed petitions in AP High Court. The court has taken up the petitions and has been hearing arguments.

Wrong calculations:

The farmers are not to be blamed for their plight. It is the overconfidence on the part of Chandrababu Naidu to think that he would win elections in 2019 also and continue the work on Amaravati and Polavaram. He did not imagine that YSRCP would be making a clean sweep in the 2019 elections. That was why he indulged in temporary construction of assembly building and the secretariat. He was whiling away precious time shuttling between Amaravati and international destinations dreaming to build Amaravati on the lines of Singapore. By the time elections approached he was at the stage of designs. At the end of the day he had nothing concrete to show for the time and money he had spent.

Naidu went by his own ideas:

If we go five years back, Naidu was pursuing  Amaravati with single-minded devotion not bothering to read the report submitted by Sivaramakrishna Committee comprising experts in different disciplines. Since he had no money, his plan to go for land-pooling scheme was perhaps novel. But he had bitten more than he could chew. Underestimating the winning chances of his opponent, he went at a snail’s pace in regard to Amaravati and Polavaram. He developed national ambition and wasted time in touring other States without bothering to complete the works at hand back home. All this was done with calculations based on wrong feedback. He thought Narendra Modi was going to lose and KCR was going to bite the dust. He guessed that he would be winning his second term as chief minister in his second stint. All calculations went wrong because the very premise is fraught with incorrect inputs.

Jagan’s unexpected move:

When Naidu was going about organizing things for Amaravati development in his own way and at his own pace, Jagan Mohan Reddy, the then Opposition leader, did not say anything about his plan of three capitals. He got his own house build at Tadepally near Amaravati on a permanent footing. People thought he was in agreement with Amaravati as the lone capital of Andhra Pradesh. But a few months after swearing in he developed new ideas and started talking about decentralization and three capitals. Had he spoken about the three capital formula during his padayaatra or election campaign, he would have been right in doing what he did.

No fault of farmers

One cannot find fault with the farmers for aspiring to make more money from their lands after being convinced by the then chief minister. It was within their right to protest against the decision of the government to go back on the capital issue. It is the responsibility of the government to explain the rationale in keeping only the legislative capital in Amaravati while moving the executive capital to Vishakhapatnam and judicial capital to Kurnool. The farmers may belong to only two districts and the people of the rest of the eleven districts may be supporting the idea of three capitals. But the government should not go back on a promise made to the people. It is the solemn responsibility of the government to explain and convince the farmers of Amaravati and find a solution to problem it had created.  The practice of convening all-party meetings was given a go by. Jagan Mohan Reddy will be reviving the good practice by organizing a meeting with the representatives of all the political parties and arrive at a solution to the vexed problem. The government cannot go back on the promise made to the Amaravati farmers and at the same time cannot disappoint the people of North Andhra and Rayalaseema whom the chief minister had promised components of the capital. Any step by the government to address the issue has to be acceptable to the people of all the regions. It is a challenge before the government.

Also Read: Jagan to meet Amit Shah on Tuesday evening

K. Ramachandra Murthy
Founder & Editor

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