Vijayawada to be capital of new Andhra Pradesh

The new capital city for Andhra Pradesh would be located around Vijayawada, chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu announced today.

Making a statement in the legislative assembly today, Naidu said land for the capital would be acquired through a pooling system, to be worked out by a cabinet sub-committee. He said the state would go for a decentralised model of development with three mega cities and 14 smart cities.

The state government decided to build its capital around the centrally-located Vijayawada, ignoring concerns raised by a central committee and despite opposition members' demand that the government first discuss the issue.

The KC Sivaramakrishnan committee set up by the union home ministry had said that setting up the capital in this area would be unfeasible and undesirable thanks to the high cost of land and diversion of fertile land for infrastructure development.

''We have decided to locate the capital city in a central place of the state around Vijayawada and to go for decentralised development of the state with three mega cities and 14 smart cities,'' Naidu said.

He said the state cabinet arrived at the decision at a meeting on 1 September.

Allaying fears of a concentrated model of development as happened in the case of Hyderabad, the capital of united Andhra Pradesh, Naidu said his government would ensure equitable development throughout the state.

''All districts have to develop. Justice has to be done to all,'' he said.

Opposition leader YS Jaganmohan Reddy of the YSR Congress Party said he ''wholeheartedly welcomed'' setting up the capital in Vijayawada but expressed concern that high land prices would lead to prohibitive living costs. ''We don't mind where the capital is located,'' Jagan Reddy said. ''But we have been saying from the beginning that the capital should have 30,000 acres of government land. Then, the government will be in a position to fix land price... High land prices will affect government employees and students,'' he said.

The area around Vijayawada, referred to as Vijayawada-Guntur-Tenali-Mangalagiri (VGTM) region, was widely expected to be named the new capital after Naidu's Telugu Desam Party (TDP) swept to power in the assembly elections in April-May.

This fuelled speculation, leading to land prices skyrocketing to as much as Rs10 crore an acre from about Rs50 lakh in a few months.

The Sivaramakrishnan committee had pointed out that land acquisition may become a ''very expensive option'' for the state government. ''The committee is strongly of the view that locating several governmental offices within the VGTM urban area is both unfeasible for financial reasons and undesirable for decentralised development,'' it said in the report.

''As far as the centre is concerned, we will go by the decision of the Andhra Pradesh government,'' union urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu said at a media briefing. ''The Centre will definitely extend support to the new capital of Andhra Pradesh.''

During his speech lasting nearly two hours, Naidu outlined his broad vision for the state, and the infrastructure investment plans for each of the 13 districts.

Visakhapatnam, the biggest city in the new state and one of the leading contenders for the capital, would be transformed into a mega city with a new international airport to attract information technology firms, start-ups and the film industry. Three metro rail projects have been proposed at Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada and Tirupati.

Vijayawada is the biggest town in Krishna district, named after the Krishna river which passes through it. Because of limited land availability and presence of many buyers, land prices have skyrocketed around Vijayawada.

Naidu said a land pooling system, which was followed while building Chandigarh and Navi Mumbai, would be a ''win-win'' for the farmers. The delta region of the Krishna river is one of the most fertile regions in the country, and therefore agricultural land comes at a premium.

While Vijayawada has played a historical role as the political capital of Andhra Pradesh, developing the area around the city could pose problems as the land there cannot take a huge infrastructure load, say experts.