Andhra govt to set up panel on feasibility of having at least 3 capitals

The Andhra Pradesh government has decided to constitute a high-powered committee for studying the expert report sought on capital city development strategies, even as the ongoing protests in Amaravati over the plan to move certain statutory functions to other regions turned violent on Friday.

An expert committee headed by former IAS officer G N Rao last week gave its report to the state government with a key recommendation that the legislative, executive and judicial functions of the state be vested with Amaravati, Vizag and Kurnool representing three broad regions of Andhra for a fair and equitable development of the state. The government had also appointed Boston Consulting Group (BCG) for a detailed report on the subject and the consulting firm was expected to submit its report in the first week of January, 2020.

The decision about the high-powered committee was taken at a cabinet meeting earlier in the day as the government apparently thought of taking one step at a time instead of hurrying things up in the face of growing resistance from farmers who gave their lands for the development of Amaravati as the new capital, under the previous government headed by N Chandrababu Naidu.

"The state cabinet chaired by chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy has had a detailed discussion on G N Rao Committee's report. We are yet to receive the other report commissioned from Boston Consulting on the same subject. After the deliberations the cabinet has decided to constitute a high powered committee to study these two reports before taking further steps on the matter," state information and public relations minister Perni Venkataramiah told the reports after the cabinet meeting.

Last week, chief minister Reddy created a political storm by announcing in the state assembly that AP could have three capitals for each of the state functions with Amaravati as the legislative capital, Vizag as the executive capital and Kurnool as the judicial capital by having assembly, secretariat and the high court located in these three different places respectively.

A couple of days later G N Rao committee submitted its report to the chief minister while recommending a similar but more complex arrangement for the location of the state functions: The secretariat, the chief minister's camp office, summer assembly and a high court bench be set up in the Visakhapatnam Metropolitan Region, the state legislature, a high court bench and the governor's Raj Bhavan and ministers' quarters in the 'Amaravati-Mangalagiri complex' and the high court and the allied judicial offices in Kurnool.

Minister Venkataramaih refused to agree to a suggestion that the state government has taken a U turn on its multi-city capital plan owing to the public outcry. "Chief minister Reddy had just made a comment in the state assembly about the possible scenarios involving the decentralised development. Once the high powered committee gives its insights into the two reports, the government then will take further steps like convening an all party meeting and a special assembly session to discuss the proposals and take a final decision," the minister said.

The political course explained by the minister also underscores the government;s game plan to gather a widespread backing to its proposed multi-city presence of state functions from the rest of the state.

To push the opposition Telugu Desam Party(TDP) leadership, particularly its president Chandrababu Naidu, into a defensive position on retaining Amaravati as the sole new capital, the state cabinet on Friday  decided to take a legal opinion to finalise a suitable agency, including the Lok Ayukta and the CBI to conduct a detailed investigation into the allegations that Naidu and his men purchased large extent of lands in Amaravati region before making the location of the new capital city public.

"The cabinet sub-committee constituted on the irregularities committed in Amaravati has submitted its report to the chief minister on Friday and the report contains details of how the leader of the then ruling party and his henchmen purchased lands before December 31, 2014 when the location of the capital city was announced. All those leaders demanding status quo with regard to Amaravati were doing so for their own interests,"the minister alleged.

On Friday the state government also decided to reduce the exclusive zone of Krishnapatnam Port to facilitate the development of a new port at Ramayapatnam in Prakasham district. It has also decided to construct the proposed port at Machilipatnam port with government funding in place in place of private development. Earlier the government had cancelled the port development contract awarded to Navayuga Group, which operates the Krishnapatnam Port.

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