The government must protect the interests of the farmers who sacrificed their lands and livelihood
A few days ago, the Andhra Pradesh government passed a Bill to repeal the Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Act of 2020 and the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (Repeal) Act of 2020 so that it may come up with a more comprehensive legislation that “dispels the wrong notions of the land-givers in Amaravati” and clarify its position on the legalities raised by the petitioners in the High Court. Upset that the government intends to introduce a more comprehensive legislation in place of the revoked three-capital Act, the farmers in Amaravati have vowed to launch a State-wide march demanding that Amaravati be retained as the single capital of A.P.
It is evident that the government has been firm on decentralised development. Following the bifurcation of erstwhile A.P. in 2014, the A.P. government pooled in over 33,000 acres of land from farmers in 29 villages of the Amaravati region, promising a world-class mega capital. It was planned that Amaravati would have nine other ‘cities’, including a ‘knowledge city’ a ‘government city’ and a ‘justice city’. The exercise was initiated to develop the region and pass on the benefits to the farmers.
The present government says this is not possible. Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy said A.P. lost the fully developed Hyderabad to Telangana during bifurcation and remains a victim of lopsided development. He blamed the previous government for making lofty promises which will saddle the State with a massive fiscal deficit. Instead of a ‘super capital’, Amaravati will be the legislative capital, he said. In the context of this, the Andhra Pradesh Assembly passed the Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Repeal Bill, 2021, which revives the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority Act, 2014.
As part of the development plan, the government may liquidate the available land left after designated plotting for development of the Amaravati region, sources say. The government has also stated that the unfinished roads of Amaravati will be developed and put to use with the available resources. However, it has ruled out investment to the tune of lakhs of crores of rupees due to a cash crunch.
The Development Agreement-Cum-Irrevocable General Power of Attorney signed by the Amaravati farmers and the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) in 2014 enables the government to go ahead with its plan. The Agreement favours the government, according to legal experts, as it stipulates that the farmers shall not claim any amount in addition to the amount agreed upon as compensation and accept it without any protest. The 33,000 acres of land were acquired through a Land Pooling Scheme brought in by the then Chandrababu Naidu government. The government had announced that for every acre of land given for land pooling, 1,000 sq yards of residential plots and 450 sq yards of commercial plots will be returned to the land owners. In addition, it promised an annual payment of ₹50,000 for 10 years with annual increase of ₹5,000 irrespective of the category of land. The Agreement says farmers cannot claim higher compensation in any court of law and will not be entitled to file any petitions in this matter. The Agreement also facilitates irrevocable rights to the government to develop the land. The courts in the Krishna and Guntur districts have exclusive jurisdiction to entertain any disputes arising out this Agreement.
The government is moving fast to get a “better” Decentralisation Bill passed by the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council where it enjoys a majority. Whatever the government does, it is paramount that it protect the interests of farmers who sacrificed their lands and livelihood.