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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/

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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Now India is One of The Most Open Countries for FDI: Narendra Modi

Modi had conceptualised the summit as Gujarat Chief Minister in 2003 to position the state as an ideal investment destination after the 2002 riots.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said that his government had made doing business in India easier, cheaper, faster and smarter with his term accounting for almost 45 per cent of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) that the country received in the last 18 years.

Speaking at the inaugural function of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2019 here, he said India was now one of the most open countries for FDI with over 90 per cent approvals put on the automatic route.

“In the last four years, we have received FDI worth $263 billion. This is 45 per cent of the FDI received in last 18 years,” Modi told the gathering.

He said India was among the top 10 FDI destinations.

FDI
PM Speaks on FDI www.news.civilserviceindia.com

Modi, who is on a three-day visit to his home state to throw open his pet biennial Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit, said the India of today was a land of “immense opportunities” being the only place that offered democracy, demography and demand.

“Fifty cities in India are ready to build metro rail systems. We have to build 50 million houses. The requirement of road, rail and waterways is enormous. We want world class technologies to achieve our goal in a faster and cleaner way. India is thus, a land of immense opportunities.” he said.

The Prime Minister said the challenge for India, as in most emerging economies, was to grow horizontally as well as vertically to ensure that the benefits of development spread to regions and communities that have lagged behind while also meeting enhanced expectations in terms of quality of life, quality of services and quality of infrastructure.

“We are well aware that our achievements, here in India, will directly impact one sixth of humanity.”

Modi said his government had removed the barriers which were preventing India from achieving its full potential and now it was ready for business like never before.

The government has made doing business easier. cheaper, faster and smarter, he said.

“In the last four years, we have jumped 65 places in the global ranking of World Bank’s Doing Business Report. From 142 in 2014 to 77 now, but we are still not satisfied. I have asked my team to work harder so that India is in the top 50 next year.

“We have also made doing business cheaper. The historic implementation of Goods and Services Tax and other measures of simplification and consolidation of taxes have reduced transaction costs and made processes efficient.

“We have also made doing business faster through digital processes, online transactions and single point inter-faces,” he said.

According to LocalCircles, each person who voted in the survey is registered with the portal with their detailed information and in many cases they shared their residential address.
Doing business in India now easier, cheaper, faster, smarter: Modi

He said his government had made doing business smarter by insisting on IT based transactions and digital payments including direct transfer of government benefits.

Modi added that he understood that being a young nation, India needs to create job opportunities and better infrastructure, which are both linked with investments.

“Therefore, in recent years, there has been unprecedented focus on manufacturing and infrastructure,” he said.

Listing the achievements of his government, he said for the first time, India had become a net exporter of electricity, had installed transmission lines at an unprecedented pace and had doubled the speed of road construction with rural road connectivity now at 90 per cent.

Also Read: PM Narendra Modi to Unveil National Film Museum in Mumbai

“At 7.3 per cent, the average GDP growth, over the entire term of our government, has been the highest of any Indian government since 1991. At the same time,the rate of inflation at 4.6 per cent is the lowest for any Indian government since 1991, when India began its process of liberalisation,” he said.

Modi had conceptualised the summit as Gujarat Chief Minister in 2003 to position the state as an ideal investment destination after the 2002 riots. (IANS)