City of Illusions

What remains after the Andhra Pradesh government decided to build an ill-advised capital

04 November 2020
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On 20 January, YS Jaganmohan Reddy, the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, introduced a bill in the legislative assembly to form three capitals for the state—an executive capital at Visakhapatnam, a legislative capital at Amaravati and a judicial capital at Kurnool. On 31 July, Biswabhushan Harichandran, the governor of Andhra Pradesh, assented to the plan. This put an end to the project of building a grand capital for Andhra Pradesh in Amaravati, which had been underway for six years after its bifurcation in 2014. Locals I spoke to, told me that the villages and communities of the fertile Krishna river bank, where the city was to come up, are now surrounded by half-built structures, their lives changed forever by a busted real-estate boom, and haunting reminders of a capital that will never be completed. I travelled to Amaravati multiple times between 2014 and 2019, and watched the rise and fall of a dream. On my last visit, in March 2019, the fate of the city already seemed to be sealed.

Amaravati was the brainchild of former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who envisioned it to be a capital tailored for the IT era, such as the one he had helped develop in Hyderabad. During the 2014 elections to the Andhra Pradesh assembly, Naidu successfully pitched himself as the man of the hour—after all, he had ushered in Hyderabad’s IT revolution and nurtured what eventually became Cyberabad.

In August 2014, the Sivaramakrishnan Committee appointed by the union ministry of home affairs suggested that the residual state, instead of setting up a capital in the Vijayawada-Guntur region, distribute the various capital functions and offices across the state to create a decentralised model of development. The government, however, vetoed the plan in September, and announced it would be building a new city near Vijayawada. 

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    Harsha Vadlamani is an independent photojournalist whose current work focuses on agrarian crises, issues of development and displacement, migration and land rights across India. His work can be seen on https://sriharsha.in.

    Keywords: Andhra Pradesh Jagan Mohan Reddy Chandrababu Naidu Amaravati Andhra Capital
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