NEW Capital: What about the OLD Farmers?

  By Arpit Pareek

The Andhra Pradesh government has swiftly completed the Herculean task of land collection for a Greenfield, Riverfront capital city for the state on the southern side of the Krishna river, close to Vijayawada in the Guntur district. Government is preparing to lay the foundation stone in May this year to complete the first phase by June 2018.

Singapore, which is known worldwide for its urban planning, is preparing the plan for the ‘core capital’ area. The Japanese government has come forward with an offer to develop the plan for areas outside the ‘core capital’ area.

World Record 32,100 acres of land is taken by the government under the land polling system till now from 29 villages, adding it with the government land, over 50,000 acres would be at the disposal of the new capital city. This will make the new capital about one third the size of old capital city “Hyderabad”.

The Land Pooling Scheme : The Chandrababu Naidu government went about the capital project by setting aside the Center’s land acquisition act and drawing up a compensation package for land-owning and tenant farmers and laborers. Many are opposed to it, and are not keen on snapping their centuries-old bond with their land and livelihood. This package is being called “Land Pooling Scheme”, and its major features are given in info-graphics.

Important features of Pooling System are these:

  • Dry land owners : 1,000 square yards of residential plot and 200 Square yards of Commercial Plot per acre + compensation of 30,000 Rupees per annum for 10 years with 10% hike
  • Wet land owners : 1,000 square yards of residential plot and 300 Square yards of Commercial Plot per acre + 50,000 Rupees per annum for 10 years with 10% hike
  • Land labours : 12,000 families of agriculture labourers and tenant farmers will be paid Rs 30,000 per annum
  • Free education and health care for all these families
  • Employment for 365 days under the Mahatma Gandhi NAREGA
  • Old-age homes and NTR canteens to provide shelter and food to old-aged persons
  • Skill development centre for unemployed youth with vocational training
  • Interest-free loans of up-to Rs 25 lakh each for youth to take up self-employment

Development Plan : Development of new capital would be based on PPP model. 25% of the land will be given back to farmers in the form of developed plots and 50% will be set aside for building common infrastructure, including roads and parks. The remaining 25% will be given to private developers in return of developing the remaining 75% land. To make sure that everyone gets the benefit, industrial nodes around the capital city will be developed to create enough demand for businesses and real estate.
AP government has a target of $30 billion investment in new capital within next decade. About a 1000 development projects are being prepared for investors to pick and choose. A dedicate integrated industrial township and industrial corridor for Japanese companies is also proposed.

The Dark Side : Land acquisition is one such process which is almost never without its own set of problems. Even though AP government claims that 32,000 Acres of land is acquired on voluntary basis and termed new capital as “People’s Capital”, it seems away from ground reality. Government has faced constant agitations and stiff opposition from many sectors, including civil societies, NGOs and local farmers.

According to many agitating organisation this proposed new capital will destroy more than 150 year old irrigated and one of the most productive agriculture zone in the country. The project is suspected at all the fronts political, environmental, economical, technical, and legal and so on. One major problem cited for agitations is unilateral decisions taken by government right from the start of selecting the location for new city. Apparently government did not bother to consult the farmers or environmental experts or any other body for that matter.

Government didn’t face much difficulty in acquisition of dry lands but a stiff resistance from farmers on the river front. All the farmers on river front raise 2 to 3 crops in a single year and the compensation is not adequate enough for highly fertile land. Even though the proposed scheme might look a better offer than the “Land Acquisition Act”, it is certainly not the best possible deal.

One reason given for so much volunteered land pooling is State government’s stance about land pooling scheme. On many incidences Chief Minister Naidu had said that the state government would “act as per law” if owners did not come forward to part with their lands under the pooling system, implying that the Land Acquisition Act would be used on them. As farmers would surely end up on losing side in Land Acquisition Act they are volunteering for Land Pooling Scheme.

One another issue with Land Pooling scheme is related to execution of it. Many farmers have raised question about swift execution of whole scheme. They are sceptical if Capital development would be completed within time, Change of government during the process, not getting the Promised Land or compensation and Bad indentation of private land developers.

Although this is a long process and we will see the level of good or bad implementation with time, we can only hope and wish for a deal which would lead state and country towards development without hurting rights of any individual or farmer.

About the Writer: Arpit is a graduate from IIT Bombay and a co-founder of Know India. He can be reached on Arpit Pareek and on mail at knowthyindia@gmail.com

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