This article is written by Niharika Agrawal, from IFIM Law School. This article deals with the composition of three capitals in the State of Andhra Pradesh and their pros and cons.
As the Government of India consists of three organs, similarly, the states propose three institutions for these three organs. The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has approved the proposal of having three capitals of the State in January 2020 with the recommendation of the High Power Committee (HPC). The state has announced Visakhapatnam as an executive capital, Kurnool as judicial capital, and Amravati as legislative capital. It is the first State in India to have three capitals. However, this concept of multi-capital is not new in the world. Countries like South Africa, Chile, Benin, Bolivia, etc. have more than one capital.
The objective of the three capitals
India follows the concept of separation of power. This concept helps in the distribution of responsibility on the three organs for the smooth mechanism of the government in the country. Similarly, Andhra Pradesh has introduced the concept of three capitals in three different locations of the state, such as Kurnool in the western corner, Amravati in the central corner, and Visakhapatnam in the eastern corner. Hence, the objective of this is balanced decentralization and inclusive development of all regions in the state. It was also opined that the states can be divided into various zones for the establishment of zonal planning and development boards. It ensures balanced regional development, decongestion of capital cities, and equal geographical wealth distribution.
History of forming three capitals
Sri Bagh Pact of 1937
The idea of decentralization is connected to history. It was earlier discussed in the Sri Bagh Pact of 1937 which was signed by the then political leaders from the coastal Andhra region and Rayalaseema. According to the Pact, it was decided that Andhra University will remain in Visakhapatnam and the High Court and the capital will be divided into two different regions for balanced decentralization.
Sri Krishna Panel of 2011
This panel consisted of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Union of India to decide the new capital for the State of Andhra Pradesh. In this panel, again the qualities and advantages of Visakhapatnam as capital were discussed. The panel did not consider a single capital city as a convenient option for Andhra Pradesh.
The above pacts have mentioned decentralization and its benefits for the three main regions are Coastal Andhra Pradesh, Godavari, Krishna, and Rayalaseema. The State of Andhra Pradesh consists of 10,000 acres of land. To set up a new office and headquarter it hardly takes 3,000 acres of land. Hence, the land was not an issue for implementing the idea of a multi-capital state as stated by the then revenue department.
During that time many experts and intellectuals opined that the decision of three capital states was a win-win situation for the government and the city’s development.
Features of these three capital cities
All three capitals practice different cultures along with different levels of development. Three capital cities in three different regions would lead to equal distribution of development in the entire state. These places have unique features that made them the capital of the state. Some of the features are as follows.
Visakhapatnam is also known as Vizag and it is the second-largest city of Andhra Pradesh with a population of more than 2 million. It has a well-developed infrastructure and is the original choice for the executive capital as that can be cost-efficient. It has good living space, education institutions, several public sector units, provides ready-made quality of manpower, and most importantly easy access to connectivity and communication in this digital era.
Amravati holds many economic, cultural, geographic, and historic values. It is located on the bank of the river Krishna and also covers the heart of the state’s Agrarian basin. The city is highly watered by Krishna, Godavari, and Penna hence, it is known as a natural growth hub. Amaravati being a legislative capital ensures the continuation of the region’s prosperity.
The city of Rayalaseema is an industrial hub. It consists of four main districts as Anantapur, Chittoor, Kadapa, and Kurnool. It is mineral-rich, well-connected to metropolis cities, and has tremendous scope for tourism and international investment. Kurnool is considered to be the most prominent city of Rayalaseema. Making it the judicial capital will address the long-standing aspirations of the Rayalaseema people and will also provide faster justice leading to development in the area.
Problems in trifurcating the capital
About hundreds of petitions were filed by the people in Andhra Pradesh High Court against the idea of trifurcating the capital. The petitions were divided into four different categories.
The first category of the petition was with regards to farmers’ protests. According to this petition, the farmers were deprived of their right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. These farmers were especially from the Amravati region who gave their lands to the previous Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu government under the Land Pooling Scheme with the assurance of a ‘world-class’ capital city that will have well-developed infrastructure such as roads, bridges, buildings, etc. They also challenged the repeal of the Capital Region Development Authority Act (CRDA, Act), 2020 as they were assured to be stakeholders in the capital under this act. Their only demand was to retain Amravati as their capital.
According to the petition, the Naidu government has taken 33,000 acres of land from the farmers from 29 villages of the Amravati region for the development of the capital city and rural areas full of green fields. However, the present CM Jagan promised to reconstitute a liveable plot for all the farmers who have given their lands. The ruling government has also decided to provide a financial package to all the affected farmers.
The tussle over the legislative process
The second category of petition pointed out that the government has failed to follow the procedure provided under the Constitution and rules and procedure for conducting the business in Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly for passing the bill. According to this petition, two bills were passed in the assembly. First to repeal the CRDA, which aims to develop the region of Amravati into Metropolitan Region development area and another one was Andhra Pradesh Decentralization and Inclusive Development of all Regions Bill, 2020, whose aim was to develop the cities of Amravati, Visakhapatnam, and Kurnool as the legislative, executive, and judicial capital.
The issue was that the two bills were passed only by the legislative assembly and not by the legislative council. Further, the council chairman referred both the bills to the Selection Committee for scrutiny but the selection committee itself was not constituted. Later, the government sends the bill for the Governor’s approval under Article 197 (1) and (2) of the Constitution to which he gave his assent to the new legislation.
Misuse of public money
The third category of the petition was regarding misuse of public money. According to this petition, the work of almost Rs. 54,300 crores that are almost 70% of the work that has been done in the city of Amravati of constructing roads, cables, electricity, etc. However, this fact was denied by the YSR government and stated that only 30% of it has been done and would take 1 lakh crore for the development. He also explained that the city of Visakhapatnam already has developed infrastructure, and will be the best choice for executive capital.
The issue that appeared was questioning the competence of the state for shifting the judiciary capital. It was appealed whether the state government has the power to shift the judiciary body like the High Court from one place to another. The question put forth was their consent of the Union Government and its time frame. Answering the question put forth by the opposing counsel, the Ministry replied that the shifting of the principal seat from Amravati to Kurnool is decided by the state government after consulting with the High Court. He also clarified that the government will take all charge of expenditure for running the High Court. He also notified that the matter was sub-judice.
Advantages and disadvantages of this decentralization
There are always some pros and cons of every move. Hence, this proposal also has some advantages and disadvantages. They are as follows:
Advantages of three capital States
- Many states in India have their judicial power in one city and legislative power in the other city. If there are three capital cities there will be the distribution of fruits of development in all regions.
- There will be the distribution of work in different cities of the state. It will help in providing more employment for locals and greater productivity.
- Amravati is also one of the capitals of the State and hence their development would continue as per earlier contracts.
- From the urbanization point of view, it is always better to work in mid-sized cities that have decent economies than primate cities that have huge populations.
- In the era of advanced technology, it will be easy for ministers and other bureaucrats to coordinate with the help of digital communication.
- The most important advantage of having capital in three different regions is that it will have developed in all the regions and also will protect the religious and cultural value of each region.
- Kurnool High Court will help in providing faster aid to the people of Rayalaseema which is one of the backward regions.
Disadvantages of having three capital states
- The eastern coastal region of India is highly prone to the disaster like cyclones. It usually occurs in October and November. Having a Secretariat, critical executive infrastructure, and high density of population in such a region of Visakhapatnam would result in great destruction of life and property.
- Another disadvantage of having three capitals is the coordination of work. Several times the work has to be done in resonance as most of their works are interconnected. Hence there can be the issue of accessibility. For example, if there is any bill by the secretariat in Vizag which needs to be passed in the legislature in Amravati and further if any conflict arises then it needs to be taken to the High court in Kurnool. This will be time-consuming as well as a wastage of money in travel expenses.
- Further cons of the three capital cities are concerning the strengthening of local bodies in urban and rural areas. The best way of decentralized development is the financial strengthening of the local bodies, providing money for the execution of the functions, etc., which would help in the development of remote areas and also will improve public participation.
- Another problem is with regards to farmers’ land. The farmers of 29 villages have lent their land to the previous government, expecting commercial land and building in return. Now they feel cheated for the same.
With the above observations, it can be concluded that the proposal for the three capital states was made with the bonafide intention of balanced decentralization in all parts of the state. This idea will implement rapid and inclusive growth in the state. The present government is trying to resolve all the earlier issues and to give a quick start to aim for development. As stated before every move has pros and cons, in the end, the intention behind such a move must be bonafide and for the benefit of society.
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