VISAKHAPATNAM: Vizag, the city of destiny, has been the growth engine of the State for the last many years and it acquired the status of financial capital. Per capita income in Vizag city is the highest in the State. At the same time, the per capita income in Ichchapuram, Paderu, Pedabayalu, Chodavaram and several places in Vizianagaram, Srikakulam, and Visakhapatnam districts are the lowest in the State, pointing at the lack of development in the North Andhra region.
People of the region want decentralisation of development rather than decentralisation of power though they welcome the capital at Visakhapatnam, according to experts from the Steel City.Speaking to TNIE, former vice-chancellor of Dravidian University and president of Uttarandhra Adhyana Vedika KS Chalam said Visakhapatnam, built by king Visakha Varma of Matara dynasty, has grown into a metro city naturally. The city had relations from Burma to Rameswaram, he said.
Most of the lands in Visakhapatnam originally belonged to rulers of Jeypore, Parlakhemundi, Vizianagaram dynasties for hundreds of years. But most of the lands have gone into the hands of grabbers, he said.Amravati is at a distance of 700 km from Ichchapuram, the extreme tip of north Andhra. Hence there should be decentralisation of administration, he said, suggesting that government offices should be located at Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada, as per requirement.
He said the government should focus on resources and development. “North Andhra has been deprived of development as all its resources were taken away. Money accrued from lands auctioned in Visakhapatnam earlier were utilised for the development of Hyderabad in united Andhra Pradesh. There is hardly any billionaire in the region like central coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. This indicates the economic status of the region,” he observed.
North Andhra did not demand capital but Vizag has been chosen as a natural process. Hence people are not worried about whether the capital is given or not. Their major concern is development as hundreds of villages in the Agency area do not have road connectivity and basic amenities, he said. Chalam said there were border issues in Saluru with Odisha. “We are not interested in the title of capital. What we need is development through decentralisation,” Chalam said.
Echoing similar views, another former vice-chancellor Balamohan Das said the use of the word capital had sent wrong signals. Decentralisation of power could have been done easily without naming three capitals. Development is important and concerns of farmers of Amaravati who gave lands should be addressed first. Expectations of farmers who were feeling cheated should be realised, he said. Systematic discussions should be held to convince farmers. Cooperative farming may be encouraged and assured developed plots should be given to mollify their feelings, he said.
Demands of the three regions can be met by locating mini secretariats and high court benches in the three regions may be a solution, he said. The delay in implementation of the proposals and the Covid pandemic had impacted the economy severely. The government should focus on making the economy robust in the state. He felt had special category status been given to the state, the three capitals proposal would not have arisen. Along with special status, the Visakhapatnam steel plant should be protected from privatisation.
Chalam said over 22,000 people, fishermen, and farmers have given their lands four decades ago for the steel plant. Even today 8,000 displaced persons were not given jobs in the steel plant, he pointed out.
Former union energy secretary EAS Sarma said decentralisation has several meanings. Powers have been devolved to panchayats as per the 11th schedule of the constitution. In tribal areas gram sabhas were given more powers. However, in reality, the powers were not delegated to panchayats even now. Real decentralisation was the devolution of powers to take the government to people’s doorstep, he said and added that no tribal can visit the capital in Amaravati.
Former vice-chancellor of law university Y Satyanarayana said since the three-capitals Act was withdrawn, it will no longer be a legal issue once the repeal bill gets the assent of the Governor, which will happen soon. He said it will now become a political issue rather than a legal one. “The courts will examine only the constitutional validity of the bill. The government might have sensed the verdict in the court and came up with a repeal bill. The larger question is the doctrine of legitimate expectation as the government cannot fall back on the promise made to people,” he said. The repeal of the acts was nothing but a political strategy, he added.