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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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Is Donald Trump’s presidency turning out to be a reward for Trump Jr.?

Trump Jr. is scheduled to give a speech on Indo-Pacific relations at a New Delhi business summit and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to share the stage with him

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The Donald Trump Jr. landed in India yesterday and is slated to sell his luxury apartments and lavish attention on wealthy Indians.
The Donald Trump Jr. landed in India yesterday and is slated to sell his luxury apartments and lavish attention on wealthy Indians. Wikimedia Commons

Recently, advertisements can be seen repeatedly in the past few days, announcing the arrival not of the Donald Trump but of his eldest son. The Donald Trump Jr. landed in India yesterday and is slated to sell his luxury apartments and lavish attention on wealthy Indians.  The advertisement further charms the people with “a conversation and dinner” with Trump Jr., if buyers who order apartments in the development by Thursday.

After Trump Jr. landed in India, he was seen posing for photos in New Delhi with Indian developers. One of the builders included Kalpesh Mehta. His firm is supposed to be the main Indian partner for Trump-brand real estate projects.

Also Read: Daughter of Presidential Candidate Donald Trump to celebrate Diwali in a Hindu Temple in the US

Although, during his election campaigns, President Donald Trump has pledged to avoid any new foreign business deals during his term in office. One of the better reasons for this was seen as to avoid potential ethical conflicts. But the visit by his Donald Trump’s son has directed the promises made by his father in some other direction. Moreover, Trump Jr. is flying around the world trying to trade on the fact that his father is sitting in the Oval Office. The global experts have long seen the use of the Trump name to promote even existing business ventures as a tricky territory.

Trump family has real estate projects coming up in Mumbai, the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon and the eastern city of Kolkata.
Trump family has real estate projects coming up in Mumbai, the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon and the eastern city of Kolkata. Wikimedia Commons

The shocker over here is the scheduled speech of Trump Jr. about Indo-Pacific relations at a New Delhi business summit and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to share the stage with him. This has raised another set of ethics concerns by offering his thoughts on international relations, that too when Trump Jr. is not holding any portfolio in the US government. By sharing the stage with government officials and talking about international relations, he is surely portraying himself as an informal ambassador for the US.

Last November, Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump visited India with an altogether different agenda than that of Trump Jr. She led the U.S. contingent at a global business conference and even her speech was broadcasted live by various television stations.

Also Read: US President Donald Trump’s Tough Stand Against Pakistan and more Highlights from his Speech

Interestingly, it is not the first instance when President Trump’s sons have raised ethical concerns over their promotional visits. Last year only, Donald Trump’s sons inaugurated a Trump-branded golf club in Dubai. The two brothers are now official in-charge to lead the Trump Organization.

Trump Jr. has planned his sprawling building in the satellite city of India, Gurgaon. The people who are ready to invest huge sum into this can expect to move into their swanky homes sometime in 2023. To run his business in India, Trump Jr. has licensing agreements with all its Indian business partners. India holds out to be the brand’s largest market outside the United States. In Pune, a luxury complex is already operational. The expected price of apartments in the Trump Towers complex in Gurgaon runs between $775,000 and $1.5 million.

President Donald Trump has pledged to avoid any new foreign business deals during his term in office.
President Donald Trump has pledged to avoid any new foreign business deals during his term in office. Wikimedia Commons

Trump family has real estate projects coming up in Mumbai, the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon and the eastern city of Kolkata.