The Andhra Pradesh government on Monday repealed two laws enacted last year to create three state capitals but announced that it will come out with a new comprehensive legislation addressing all issues including legal matters for the larger good of the people.
Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy told the state Assembly that the decision was taken to strengthen the existing provisions and to address various issues.
The Assembly passed Andhra Pradesh Decentralization and Inclusive Development of all Regions Repeal Bill 2021 by a voice vote after the chief minister made a brief statement.
The Bill repealed the Andhra Pradesh Decentralization and Inclusive Development of all Regions Act 2020 and the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region development Authority Repeal Act 2020.
However, the state minister Botsa Satyanarayana later made it clear that the government has not gone back on the decision to have administrative, legislative and judicial capitals at Visakhapatnam, Amaravati and Kurnool respectively.
The decision to pass the Bill was taken at an emergency meeting of the state cabinet presided over by the chief minister. Before passing the Bill in Assembly, the state government informed Andhra Pradesh High Court of its decision.
The high court was to resume hearing on a batch of petitions challenging the two legislations made last year when Advocate General informed it of the government’s decision.
Joagan Mohan Reddy said that the government would bring in a comprehensive and improved Decentralization Bill, elaborating the good intentions and incorporating all answers to public queries and legal matters.
He claimed that if the process of three capitals had begun on time, soon after passing the Bills it would have shown good results by now, as the decentralization was intended to provide equal development of three regions which is in line with the Sri Bagh Pact. However, the government’s intention behind this had been twisted, distorted, and people were misled amidst legal hurdles for the past two years.
After coming to power in 2019, the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) had reversed the decision of the previous TDP government to develop Amaravati as the only state capital. This had triggered massive protest from farmers of Amaravati, who had given 33,000 acres of land for the capital and were hoping to reap its economic benefits.
The farmers, women and others have been protesting against the trifurcation for more than 700 days.
“Chandrababu Naidu took the controversial decision on capital in violation of Sri Krishna Committee recommendations and pooled about 50,000 acres of land for the capital. I have nothing against this region and my house is here and I love this region. But this region is neither in Vijayawada nor in Guntur and both about 30 to 40 km away,” the chief minister told the Assembly.
“To provide basic infrastructure like roads, power, drainage, according to the previous government’s figures, a whopping Rs 1 lakh crore is required as they pegged the cost at Rs 2 crore per acre. In the coming 10 years, the cost would escalate to Rs 6 to 7 lakh crore and we do not have that kind of money to paint such an illusionary picture. In that case our youth have to go to bigger cities like Hyderabad, Chennai or Bengaluru for jobs,” he added.
Pointing out that Visakhapatnam already has the basic infrastructure like roads, drainage and power supply, he said if we put in some value addition, it will compete with Hyderabad in the coming five to 10 years.
The chief minister said the 2019 election result was a resolute vote against the concentration of development in one place and negation of a super capital model like Hyderabad. He claimed that the subsequent elections, which gave YSRCP thumping mandate, acknowledged their policy of decentralization.
He said to ensure overall development of all regions, the government had decided to go for decentralization by making Visakhapatnam the executive capital, and keeping the aspirations of other regions in view, this (Amaravati) region as legislative capital and abiding by the Sri Bagh Pact, Kurnool as judicial capital. He recalled that when Kurnool was the capital of Andhra state, the high court was in Guntur and both were shifted to Hyderabad in 1956.
Earlier, Finance Minister Buggana Rajendranath explaining the salient features of the Repeal Bill said that the subject matter needs further study and consultations to impart further clarity to the policy of decentralisation of the state and explanation to all sections of people exhaustively.
He said the government intends to repeal the Acts to enable further consultations with all the stakeholders once again and to present suitable legislation in future addressing all the concerns of all the regions of the state favouring decentralisation.
Last year on July 31, Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan had signed the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (APCRDA) Repeal Bill 2020 and Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Bill 2020, paving the way for trifurcation of the state capital.
The repeal of the APCRDA, which was created for development of Amaravati as the state capital, had led to formation of the Amaravati Metropolitan Region Development Authority (AMRDA).
The Bills were first passed in the Assembly in January 2020, but the opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which had a majority in the 58-member Council, stalled them and got them referred to a Select Committee.
However, the legislature officials had refused to constitute the Select Committee on the ground that the decision of the then chairman of the Council M. A. Shariff was not in line with the rules.
Even as Amaravati farmers and others moved to the high court, the Bills were passed by the Assembly for the second time on June 16, 2020. Though they were not passed by the Legislative Council, they were considered as ‘deemed to be passed’ as per Clause 2 of Article 197 of the Constitution as one month had elapsed after their introduction in the Upper House of the state legislature.
Those who had moved the high court, challenged the two Bills on the ground that they were not passed in accordance with the rules.