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‘Fertile land forcibly acquired from farmers for Andhra Pradesh’s new capital’

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Photo: crda.ap.gov.in/
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By Sapan Kapoor

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today laid the foundation stone of Amaravati, the new capital of divided Andhra Pradesh amidst serious allegations that more than 30,000 acres of fertile agricultural land has been forcibly acquired from the state’s poor farmers for this purpose.

Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has promised that Amaravati will be a world-class and ‘people’s capital’. While the government of Singapore has prepared a masterplan for the capital, Naidu is seeking Japan’s partnership in building the city.

The state government claims that farmers have voluntarily donated over 30,000 acres of land for the building the capital. Therefore, some of the farmers were also felicitated at the foundation stone laying ceremony.

However, that is only half of the story. Concerned citizens, farmers and civil society activists unhappy and distraught about the manner in which land has been literally usurped for the capital have been running pillar to post, writing letters to powers-that-be and moving courts of law claiming that the state government has violated environmental norms, exposing the criminal nexus between the government and real estate developers.

EAS Sarma, former Secretary, Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, government of India, who is now an activist, in an exclusive interview told NewsGram that rules were not followed while acquiring fertile agricultural land and wetlands for the new capital – nearly 40% of the total area of 33,000 acres – where some 100 varieties of grains, vegetables and fruits are cultivated.

Furthermore, in a letter dated October 11, 2015 to Mr Nripendra Misra, Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi,  Sarma alleged that the Andhra Pradesh government was violating an interim order issued on October 10 by the National Green Tribunal restraining it from going ahead with the new city project until it obtains statutory environmental clearances.

“The capital city project, as being thought of by Shri Chandrababu Naidu, will disrupt agriculture over large stretches of fertile land, adversely affect the lives of lakhs of farmers, agricultural workers, artisans and agri-based economy, like never before. The project is yet to be subject to a statutory environment impact appraisal.”

Sarma added: “The National Green Tribunal (NGT), in an interim order dated 10-10-2015, appears to have expressed concern at the fact that the State authorities are yet to survey the area and assess its agricultural resources and directed them not to proceed with any activity that is likely to disturb agriculture and the local environment. It is ironic that the Chief Minister is more eager to invite foreign dignataries to the inaugural function than trying to find out the value of the agricultural resources and human capital that will be foregone as a result of the project.

“Against this background, it will be highly imprudent on the part of the PM to agree to affix his stamp of approval for the project by laying the foundation stone, as such an act is likely to make a mockery of the law of the land and its statutory institutions, especially at a time when India is pronouncing to the world its resolve to join hands in poptecting the environment.”

Sarma told NewsGram that Under Section 6 of the AP Reorganisation Act, the Union Home Ministry appointed the Sivaramakrishnan Committee to suggest alternate locations that minimise disruption to agriculture and environment, cause least displacement of people, which is least expensive. The State summarily rejected the report and unilaterally decided to locate the capital in the Guntur region.

“Apparently, it is a statutory violation,” he said.

Moreover, according to Sarma, the Capital City Project occupies more than 30,000 acres of fertile agricultural land. There are 30 to 40 thousand farmers, agricultural workers, artisans dependent on this land. More than 120 different kinds of crops are raised over these lands. Diversion of this land for constructing buildings for a capital city will destroy agriculture and adversely impact food security.

The project involves several thousands of crores of rupees of expenditure. AP’s budget is already stressed and assistance from the Centre cannot be significant. The expenditure on the project has increased at every stage. It appears that a large portion of the capital land is subject to floods and its level needs to be raised. To provide water for the new city, a barrage may have to be constructed on River Krishna, he added.

Sarma accused the State of blatantly committing multiple statutory violations in hurrying through with the project. In addition to violating Section 6 of the AP Reorganisation Act, in the absence of a formal environment appraisal and clearance, it is a violation of the Environment (Protection) Act. As per a Supreme Court order of 2006, no land should be acquired prior to statutory environment clearance.

There are forests within the area which have been flattened, violating the Forest (Conservation) act. There are wetlands which attract the Wetland (Conservation & Management) Rules and they have been violated in the absence of any clearance from the Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority.

In the absence of a public hearing on the basis of a Social Impact Assessment, the 2013 land acquisition law stands violated, he alleged.

The tiller of the soil, Sarma said, has nothing in his/her hands as of now and he is forced to live in false hopes.

“There have been multiple land registrations which, if investigated, will reveal the facts. It is estimated that more than Rs 15,000 crores have already been money-laundered… The procedure prescribed in AP Agricultural Lands (Conversion to Non-Agricultural Purposes) Act, as upheld by the AP High Court has also been violated.”

Sarma further alleged, “The entire drama of the capital city project is being carefully orchestrated by a coterie within the State Cabinet and a few close party workers… Good governance cannot come by setting up air-conditioned concrete buildings. What is urgently called for is transparency in the functioning of the government, a competitive environment, public accountability and devolution of authority.”

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Waves of black as Modi visits Chennai

Tamil Nadu has been in turmoil since the six-week period for setting up the Board expired, with opposition parties and a host of fringe Tamil groups attacking the Centre

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Narendra Modi App
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (FILE PHOTO)

Black flags and balloons and activists in black shirts and trousers greeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he paid a whirlwind visit to Chennai with helicopter as the chosen mode of transport in the wake of statewide agitation demanding constitution of the Cauvery Management Board (CMB).

Protests were also held with black flags and placards throughout Tamil Nadu in cities like Tiruchi, Thanjavur, Coimbatore and Tuticorin against the Prime Minister’s brief visit to the state and the Centre’s failure to constitute the CMB despite a Supreme Court order. Black flags were hoisted on homes and business establishments across the state.

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi stressed on the importance of service to others in his last Mann Ki Baat edition for 2017.
Narendra Modi welcomed with black flags in chennai.

In a bid to avoid protesters, Modi, who arrived here by a special aircraft in the morning, chose a helicopter to reach Tiruvidanthai, in neighbouring Kanchipuram district where he opened the 10th DefExpo organised by the Defence Ministry. From there he took another chopper to come to IIT Madras, in the heart of the city. From there, he took a one-kilometre ride by car to the neighbouring Adyar Cancer Institute for an event.

The Prime Minister walked a few steps from the helicopter to the car that ferried him to the Cancer Institute. As he did so, he encountered some 30 students from IIT Madras who stood silently but held posters demanding a Cauvery Management Board as ordered by the Supreme Court — an issue which has whipped up emotions in Tamil Nadu. Modi then left by helicopter to the airport before returning to Delhi.

Also Read: Modi is anti-Dalit, will defeat BJP in 2019: Rahul Gandhi

#Go back Modi trended on top as netizens took to the cyberspace to register their protest against the Central government’s failure to set up the CMB as directed by the Supreme Court to ensure proper sharing of Cauvery waters between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and other states.

DMK leader M.K. Stalin, who was on a padayatra of the Cauvery delta areas, wore black shirt and trousers as he protested along with state Congress President Thirunavukkarasar and CPI-M state unit chief Mutharasan. “The Prime Minister may be flying in the air today but he has to come down when the elections come,” he said taking a dig at Modi.

A black flag was hoisted at DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s residence. The ailing leader wore a black shirt. DMK MP Tiruchi Siva and leaders of DMK allies wore black dress and marched on the road near the Chennai airport.

In the morning outside the Chennai airport, activists of the Federation for protection of Tamil Art and Culture, led by noted film director Bharatiraja and other film personalities like Amir, Gautaman and Vetrimaran protested against Modi’s visit. They were arrested.

will also hold a meeting there with the Indian community. Wikimedia Commons
Cauvery River Dispute is going on for a while now. Wikimedia Commons

While MDMK chief Vaiko held a black flag protest in Velachery, Naam Thamizhar Katch convenor Seeman, a film director, was arrested elsewhere. Vaiko called Modi a “coward” for choosing to fly. Political leaders Velmurugan and P. Nedumaran were arrested from Alandur metro station in Chennai for holding black flag protests.

Tamil Nadu has been in turmoil since the six-week period for setting up the Board expired, with opposition parties and a host of fringe Tamil groups attacking the Centre, saying the BJP was interested only in winning the Assembly elections in Karnataka. Even the hugely-popular IPL cricket matches have been shifted out of Chennai to Pune in view of the disturbances on Tuesday. IANS