AP: Expert Panel Suggests Capital Should Function from Three Places

Contrary to expectations, an expert committee set up by the Home Ministry has not recommended name of any particular place for establishment of the capital of residuary Andhdra Pradesh but suggested that the state government should function simultaneously from three different places.

The committee, headed by former Union Urban Development Secretary KM Sivaramakrishnan recommended that the capital and other institutions "be distributed" in three different regions of the state - Vishakhapattanam in Uttarandhra, Rayalaseema Arc comprising Kurnool, Anantapur, Tirupathi, Kadapa and Chittoor; and "Kalahasti - Nadikudi spine."

According to the report, which was submitted to the Home Ministry two days ago and made public tonight, said there will be no single capital for Andhra Pradesh.

"Communication between different government offices is no longer an issue of physical proximity. We recognise that our approach of distributed development is not convention and may be regarded as inconvenient and impractical by many officials.

But if distribution of development and governmental functions is desired in Andhra, we feel this approach should be followed. The Committee does not consider a single large capital city as a feasible option available to Andhra Pradesh as of now," the report said.

The Committee said the existing concentration in Hyderabad of the legislature, the courts and the executive comprising numerous ministries, departments, commissionerates and directorates has happened over several years.

This concentration has itself been a major bone of contention in the process of bifurcation. 

The 188-page report noted that in the contemporary state where the nature of governmental functions are both highly varied and innovative, there is no particular merit in seeking to locate all government offices in one single place.

Compared to the situation which existed in the country soon after independence when entirely new cities like Chandigarh with about 115 sq km Gandhi Nagar with 177 sq km and Bhubaneswar with 419 sq km (including the existing city) could be conceived and built, the Committee said such large scale acquisition of land and development is much more difficult now.

"It appears most unlikely that in Andhra Pradesh vast areas of government land on this scale will be available. On the other hand the existing and proposed rail and road connectivity between different cities of Andhra Pradesh which can be significantly improved and expanded, renders the search for a single super city location unnecessary," the report says.

It took note that there has been much publicity in recent weeks that a capital city may come up between Guntur and Vijaywada.

"This is mainly due to the common perception that this area is geographically central as between the Uttarandhra coast and Rayalaseema and is already well connected.

"This geographical connectivity, centrality and proximity are attractive concepts but need not be the only one for guiding development. In other states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra or West Bengal this geographical centrality does not exist," the report said.

The Committee said any attempt towards concentration of the state government offices within the urban area of Vijayawada - Guntur will have to consider other consequences such as the strain on infrastructure and possible unplanned expansion of urban areas.

"Importantly, it will also adversely affect the development prospects of other areas in Andhra by sucking much private and speculative capital into the area," it said.

Further, the report said the Krishna, Guntur and West Godavari districts comprise some of the best agricultural lands in the country, contributing more than one per cent to the country's rice production and is often referred as the rice bowl of the country.

"There is no evidence to show that an infrastructure or environment impact assessment has been made to permit urbanisation of this large area. The present development plan for the Vijaywada-Guntur area with its ring road seeks to bring more land under urbanisation without considering other aspects," it said.

The Committee said it feels that locating several governmental offices within the Vijaywada-Guntur area is both unfeasible for financial reasons and undesirable for decentralised development.

"It will significantly add to the honey pot character similar to Hyderabad which in turn will detract from the potential and growth prospects of other centers in Andhra," the report said.

The committee recommended that the capital functions and institutions be distributed across three different regions of the state.

The first is the Vizag region. "To facilitate the development of this area, the Committee recommends that the various governmental offices in particular those dealing with industry, manufacture, ports, shipping, petrochemical etc. May be located in this particular zone. 

"It is appropriate that offices relating to industry, fisheries and employment whether they are called directorates or otherwise which are presently located in Hyderabad should also be located in the Vizag zone which will put them in close contact and interaction with the people and institutions in the area," the report said.

The committee then recommended location of various capital functions and institutions in the "Rayalaseema Arc" stretching from Kurnool to Chittoor via Anantapur and Tirupathi and including Kadapa, which is a major transport hub for railways.

"There is a strong feeling in Kurnool-Anantapur that its claims to be the seat for capital were surrendered in favour of Hyderabad. The Rayalaseema people feel this has been a serious historical mistake which should be addressed.

"Though the area has had problems of water scarcity and power supply, there is a strong feeling in both Kurnool and Anantapur that these problems have been allowed to get worse and are used as an argument to discourage development.

"As mentioned before, if Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Delhi can access water from distant sources there is no insurmountable reason for Kurnool and Anantapur not to do so. The Committee would like to draw attention to the prominent reality of the Hyderabad-Kurnool-Anantapur-Bangalore highway," the committee report said.

The committee also recommended that location of some other government functions in the Nadikudi-Kalahasti area, which will emerge as a important zone of development.

"We would therefore suggest that the AP Government should decide as soon as possible the locations of the different directorates, and other offices so that they can make a beginning to shift to these locations in these growth zones as well as districts as appropriate. It is therefore up to the Andhra Pradesh government to carefully review the existing arrangements for more than the 200 different government offices and undertakings which are presently located in Hyderabad about their future location.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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