Out of the deep freezer, CM Chandrababu Naidu’s passion projects in Andhra get a revival

Naidu is passionate about several projects which he wants to take up on priority. High on his agenda is Amaravati — his passion project.

ByRaj Rayasam

Published Jun 17, 2024 | 9:00 AM Updated Jun 17, 2024 | 9:00 AM

Chandrababu Naidu at an election rally

For Chandrababu Naidu who took over as the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh for the fourth time on 12 June, his task is cut out. He is passionate about several projects which he wants to take up on priority.

High on his agenda is Amaravati – his passion project. Naidu decided to develop a new capital for the truncated state of Andhra Pradesh in erstwhile Guntur district, close to Krishna river bank as soon as he took over as the chief minister of the state in 2014.

The project suffered a setback after YS Jagan Mohan Reddy won the assembly elections in 2019. Now that Naidu is back in the saddle, he wants to take it up on a priority basis.

As soon as he won the election, the Andhra Pradesh  Capital Region Development Authority began clearing the bushes and lighting up the Seed Access Road in the Amaravati area, signalling that Naidu was going to give a fresh lease of life to the project which was in a moribund state under Jagan Mohan Reddy’s dispensation.

After prolonged discussions in the Assembly and considering the report of the KC Sivaramakrishnan committee, constituted by the Centre to recommend possible locations for the construction of the new capital, Naidu decided to locate it in the Guntur district.

It was not very far from old Amaravati town and the bustling city of Vijayawada on the other bank of the Krishna river. Old Amaravati is located adjacent to Dharanikota, which was the capital of the Satavahana dynasty more than 2,000 years ago.

Also Read: Chandrababu Naidu assumes charge as Andhra Pradesh CM

Naidu’s vision for Amaravati, challenges in development

After taking over as the chief minister in 2014, Naidu created the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (APCRDA). The capital city was projected to come up in an area of 217.23 square km in three mandals of Mangalagiri, Thullur and Tadepalle in Guntur district.

The seed capital was designed to come up in an area of 16.94 sq km. All set, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, laid the foundation stone for Amaravati on Vijaya Dasimi day on 22 October, 2015, at Uddandarayanipalem in the Amaravati capital area.

Naidu had to struggle to get 33,000 acres of land from farmers in villages in the three mandals. As purchasing fertile lands is prohibitively expensive and as the farmers were not willing to sell their lands in the first place, he hit upon the idea of land pooling.

Under this new scheme, the farmers were to be paid a lease amount for a period of 10 years for the lands they would surrender and also they would be given residential and commercial plots which would greatly appreciate in value after the Amaravati was in place.

By 2017, Naidu had managed to construct buildings for the interim secretariat and interim legislature at Velagapudi. The city was planned to have 51 percent green space and 10 percent water bodies.

On Naidu’s request, the Singapore government appointed two consultants who gave the master plan to Naidu for the construction of the capital. The city’s infrastructure was to be developed in about seven years in phases, at an estimated cost of ₹33,000 crore.

After YS Jagan Mohan Reddy came to power, he junked Amaravati and in its place brought a three capital city project — the legislative capital at Amaravati, the administrative capital at Visakhapatnam and the judicial capital in Kurnool, three regions of the state.

On 31 July, 2020, the governor gave his assent to the three capital legislation bill, and on 5 March, 2022, the High Court gave the verdict in favour of a single capital. Even then, the Amaravati project remained a non-starter under the Jagan Mohan Reddy dispensation.

Also Read: As CM, Naidu to first sign off on abolishing Land Titling Act, reopening Anna canteens

Polavaram project 

The second most important project is Polavaram, estimated to cost ₹47,726 crore based on 2017-18 estimates. Naidu has already conducted a preliminary review with officials on the present status of the Polavaram project. He intends to focus his attention on the project.

He is expected to visit and review the Polavaram project every Monday. He used to stick to this schedule when he was the chief minister between 2014 and 2019 so much so it was said that for Naidu, Somavaram (Monday) is Polavaram.

The present status of the project is that about 26 percent of the work is yet to be completed. In a reply to a query by the TDP in the Assembly in September last year, the then YSRCP Irrigation Minister A Rambabu had said that 73.69 percent of the work had been completed by then. He also said the project works were expected to be completed by December 2025.

Since the beginning, Naidu has been very keen on taking up the project. Immediately after winning the 2014 elections, he brought pressure on the Centre to merge seven mandals in Khammam district in Telangana, with Andhra Pradesh so that there would not be any problem when he begins the Polavaram project

The centre had consented to this. He used to say that unless the centre consented to transferring the mandals, he would not take oath as the chief minister of the state.

Immediately thereafter the centre constituted Polavaram Project Authority to funnel funds to the state for the project and the construction work began immediately. The first obstacle came in December 2017 when the project contractor, Transstroy sought an extension of the deadline and an upward revision of the budget claiming that it ran into losses.

In January 2018, the government entrusted the work to Navayuga Engineering. The works included project spillway, spill channel and stilling basin works. Chandrababu Naidu unveiled the first crest gate of the Polavaram project on 24 December, 2018.

An expenditure of ₹16,035.88 crore was incurred on the project from April 2014 to December 2022. A sum of ₹13,226.04 crore has been released by the centre for the execution of the project since April 2014.

Bills amounting to ₹2,390.27 crore were rejected for reimbursement by the Polavaram Project Authority (PPA). Additionally, bills amounting to ₹548 crore have been received by the PPA for examination.

Also Read: Armed with World Bank and Stanford credentials, Lokesh poised for key role in Andhra’s development

Development of Mangalagiri, Visakhapatnam into IT Hubs

Naidu sought to develop Mangalagiri and Visakhapatnam into major IT Hubs to provide quality and high-paying employment to those graduating from engineering colleges.

Though he had done some preliminary work when he was the chief minister, the proposal took a backseat during the YS Jagan Mohan Reddy regime.

As Naidu accorded priority to developing Mangalagiri into an IT hub, software major Microsoft reportedly showed interest in setting up a training centre which would act as an incubation centre for producing IT professionals.

The government then said that about 20-30 IT companies showed interest in setting up their offices in Mangalagiri. Naidu also wanted to develop Vishakhapatnam into an IT hub better than Hyderabad.

Though the foundation for the development of Visakhapatnam into an IT Hub was done during Naidu’s time, his successor Jagan Mohan Reddy made efforts to promote IT in the port city as he wanted to locate administrative capital there.

Also Read: Unauthorised structures near former CM Jagan’s Hyderabad residence demolished

Visakhapatnam as financial capital

Another important project for Naidu is making Visakhapatnam the financial capital of the state.

When he became the chief minister in 2014, Naidu wanted to develop Visakhapatnam into the financial city of the state. He always used to refer to how Mumbai had become the financial capital of India and why shouldn’t Andhras have a city like Mumbai in Visakhapatnam.

After becoming the chief minister for the fourth time on 12 June, he reiterated that he was committed to realizing his dream of making Visakhapatnam the financial capital.

Though he did not divulge how he intended to go about it, he, however, made it clear that Visakhapatnam would get the recognition it deserved since he was going to promote Amaravati as the capital of Andhra Pradesh.

He did not elaborate on his plan on making Visakhapatnam as financial capital but it was clear that he wanted to encourage and promote banking and finance companies to come up more in number in the port city.

Skill census and Anna Canteens

Chandrababu Naidu is also keen on ensuring employment to the teeming millions of the youth in the state.

As Andhra Pradesh ranks first in unemployment rate in the country, and given that this issue can significantly impact public sentiment and topple governments as was seen in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh recently, Naidu does not want to commit the same mistake Jagan Mohan Reddy did.

He is preparing to kick-start a skill census in the state to determine individuals” skills, improve upon them and encourage diversification into other skills as required by the industry for them to get decent employment.

Anna Canteens which Naidu had set up in the past, had been wound up by Jagan Mohan Reddy. Naidu has now revived them. Anna – meaning brother – was originally intended to refer to NTR, but the prefix was not used, which, as a result, now implies both NTR or Chandranna.

In Andhra Pradesh, NTR used to be referred to as Anna in his days. Naidu has already signed the file relating to the reopening of the canteens across the state.

When he was the chief minister, Anna Canteens used to provide clean, nutritious and tasty food to the poor at ₹5 per head. After YS Jagan Mohan Reddy took over, they were wound up though some TDP MLAs ran them bearing expenses from their pockets.

(Edited by Shauqueen Mizaj)

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