While 5% of pooled land can be used for affordable housing, capital region farmers have contested the decision for various reasons.

Amaravati farmers oppose Andhra govts move to allot pooled land for housing schemeImage for representation
news Governance Friday, February 28, 2020 - 15:48

The Andhra Pradesh state government has decided to utilise some area that was pooled for the development of the capital in Amaravati to allot house sites for the poor under the government housing scheme called ‘Pedalandariki Illu’ (housing for the poor). 

The Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government has announced that house sites will be given to 25 lakh beneficiaries as part of the scheme across the state by Ugadi, which is on March 25. Revenue officials across the 13 districts are in the final stages of identifying land for the scheme. 

On Tuesday, the Municipal Administration and Urban Development Department issued a government order (GO) stating that the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) — the planning agency for the capital — will provide more than 1,200 acres of land to beneficiaries of the housing scheme in Krishna and Guntur districts. 

The idea of Amaravati was formulated under the previous TDP government, as part of which land was pooled to create the capital. Under the land pooling scheme, people gave up their land and in return, were going to be given developed plots by the government. Those who gave their land expected rapid urbanisation and economic development in the region, and a resulting rise in real estate prices. However, amidst the government's now-stalled efforts to decentralise the state’s capital, that plan did not materialise. Petitions challenging the government’s decentralisation plans are pending in the High Court.

The primary opposition to the government’s plan to decentralise the capital and have three capitals are from farmers and landowners from Amaravati, as they gave up nearly 33,000 acres of land for the capital as part of the Land Pooling Scheme. 

Some farmers of the capital region have questioned the CRDA’s authority to allot land for the scheme, since the government has sought to repeal the CRDA itself. 

The 1,251.5 acres of land has been allotted on the request of the District Collectors of Krishna and Guntur in the villages of Nowluru, Krishnayapalem, Nidamarru, Inavolu, Kuragallu and Mandadam in Amaravati region. The land will be used to allot house sites to a total of 54,307 beneficiaries identified by the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation in Krishna district, and the Tadepalli and Mangalagiri Municipalities as well as certain gram panchayats of Tadepalli, Duggirala, Mangalagiri and Pedakakani mandals of Guntur district. 

According to the government order, the Commissioner of APCRDA said that at least 5% of the land pooled under the Land Pooling Scheme can be allotted for providing affordable housing for the poor, as per the APCRDA Act, 2014. Around 87 acres of land pooled under the Land Pooling Scheme has already been used for building housing for the poor, the order stated. 

Seshu, one of the organisers of the protests against the decentralisation of the capital (which have been on for nearly 70 days at Mandadam), says that the protesting farmers are opposed to the move. “Our priority is to resolve the issue of the capital being shifted. We are eager for economic development in the region, and the protestors here feel that the government should focus on bringing development and investments before giving the land away for such schemes,” he said. 

Basavaiah from the Rajadhani Assigned Rythulu Rythu Kooleela Samakhya (Capital Region Assigned Farmers and Farm Workers Association) questioned the move to allot land under the housing scheme, saying that the beneficiaries from the Amaravati villages should be given preference before accommodating those from other regions. 

“Housing for economically weaker sections has already been built under the PMAY (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana) scheme in Dondapadu, Penumaka, Ananthavaram, Yerrabalem and other places. People have paid the amount required and have received housing allotment letters, but the houses are lying empty,” says Basavaiah, alleging that the YSRCP government has refused to accept the beneficiaries identified by the previous government. 

“They might include us in the new list of beneficiaries and allot the houses on Ugadi. But the remaining land from the 5% should also first be used for the benefit of the weaker sections in the villages where the land is located,” he said.

Basavaiah says that people from marginalised communities in the Amaravati villages lack community and wedding halls and don’t have access to public spaces like parks, and asks why the land cannot be used for these purposes instead. “An Ambedkar Memorial Park which was supposed to come up near the High Court has also been stalled,” he says.

He added that various groups from the region have been demanding for the last few years that the 5% land meant for the poor be used effectively.  

While the beneficiaries have been identified by the district administrations of Krishna and Guntur, the CRDA is in charge of the development of the layout and the demarcation and numbering of the plots. House sites of the size of 1 cent will be issued to women beneficiaries of eligible families. 

The exercise will be implemented by a committee comprising the APCRDA Commissioner, and the District Collectors of Krishna and Guntur.

Some farmers have also challenged the GO in the High Court. On Thursday, the Advocate-General reportedly argued that the petitioners’ stand that the allotment of house sites would change the demography of the region was unconstitutional. He also argued that for Amaravati to be developed as one of the capitals, people from outside must migrate to the region. The next hearing in the case has been postponed to March 4. 

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