“The CM has given the example of South Africa to defend his plan for decentralisation. But we can’t just borrow ideas from entirely different states or countries without thinking of regional differences," said one farmer.

Farmers from 29 Amaravati villages protest Jagans proposal for three capitals
news Protest Thursday, December 19, 2019 - 19:31

A bandh was observed in parts of Amaravati on Thursday. While normal life wasn’t disrupted, the bandh was called by farmers who are protesting the state government’s proposal to establish three different capitals in Andhra Pradesh. Farmers’ groups held protests in several villages, continuing to hold a rally which culminated at Velagapudi, where scores of farmers continued to protest for the rest of the day. 

On the last day of the winter Assembly session, Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy hinted at a proposal to have three capitals. He stated that while Amaravati can remain the legislative capital, Vizag could become the administrative capital, and Kurnool the judicial capital.

However, the farmers who had given their lands for capital region development in Amaravati under the land pooling scheme are unhappy with the decision. They have been holding sporadic protests from Wednesday onwards, calling for a bandh and rally on Thursday even after Section 144 was imposed in the 29 villages of Amaravati. 

Vasu, a farmer from Venkatapalem, accused Jagan of operating without transparency. “What is the meaning of making the announcement on the last day of the Assembly session? It’s a way of escaping accountability,” he said. He went on to blame CM Jagan and Urban Development Minister Botcha Satyanarayana for going back and forth on their assurances about the development of the capital in Amaravati. 

Many of the protesting farmers rubbished the idea for three capitals. “The CM has given the example of South Africa to defend his plan for decentralisation. But we can’t just borrow ideas from entirely different states or countries without thinking of regional differences. The government needs to come up with ideas specific to our context,” said Srikanth, another farmer from Malkapuram. 

Farmers from multiple villages, including Tulluru, Mandadam, Malkapuram, Rayapudi, Nekkallu, Neerukonda, Ainavolu, Bethapudi and others gathered at Velagapudi, close to the Secretariat, at a protest camp. Farmers are also mulling over beginning a relay hunger strike in the absence of assurance from the government. 

Some of the farmers also accused the Jagan government of creating differences among various regions and castes through his proposal. The move is also being seen by many as a deliberate blow to farmers from the Kamma community who are said to have pooled most of the land, back when the TDP was in power. 

Many of them also questioned the feasibility of having three capitals, and the fate of the pooled land. “We did not give more than 33,000 acres of land just for the Assembly. Only when there’s overall development, the land can be used meaningfully,” Ashok from Velagapudi said. Farmers expressed concern that if Amaravati becomes just the legislative capital, the development of infrastructure cannot be carried out to the extent promised to them when they gave land for pooling. “We were promised developed plots with proper roads and other infrastructure in place. The Assembly and Secretariat are already up and running. If this becomes only the legislative capital, why would they work on infrastructure across 29 villages?” Vasu questioned. 

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