World-class Andhra Pradesh capital is the aim: Chandrababu Naidu

Updated - March 24, 2016 08:37 pm IST

Published - October 21, 2015 12:22 am IST - VIJAYAWADA

With just 36 hours to go for the foundation ceremony for Amaravati, Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu was in an expansive mood as he laid out the road map for the future. Not normally a man to wax lyrical, Mr. Naidu says Amaravati is a “city of the centuries,” one that encapsulates all the nuances of Telugu culture as well the dreams of the Telugu people. In a wide-ranging interview with The Hindu , the Chief Minister explained his strategy for raising the finances required to build a capital, which is said to cost upwards of Rs one lakh crore, and the clarity of purpose required to carry it through.

Excerpts from the interview:

You talk of nothing else than Amaravati these days. What does it mean to you?

At present, we are in a crisis. People are disturbed and demoralised after bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. It is my responsibility to protect their interests and show them a direction. Not only do I have to address the lack of a capital, I have to visualise what resources we will need. I have to put the State on the global map. That is my agenda.

How different is this from the experience of building Cyberabad in the 1990s?

I’m more mature now, but I am working with more intensity. There is some inner realisation to be remembered forever. People should remember me for what I have done. That is the inner energy which is driving me every second.

So you want to make history?

I like to create new things. I may not be the best but I am a reasonably good organiser. I am quick to adopt new ideas. If there is something good, I will follow it and implement it. I adopted information technology in 1985. And I work hard. If I work hard, everybody will fall in line and automatically results will come and people will benefit. That is my inspiration.

I want to convert our problems into opportunities. We are now looking east because we are an eastern state. Our sea coast is our biggest asset. We have the best sea coast on the eastern side. I plan to use this as an advantage. That is why I want to build a capital that will drive our economy and take advantage of the opportunities on our sea coast.

Our other big problem is availability of water, especially in Rayalaseema. We plan to tackle that problem by linking the Godavari and Krishna basins to end drought in Rayalaseema. My aim is to make Andhra Pradesh a drought-proof State. If I can do all this, it will be history.

How did you come to choose Amaravati as the location for your capital? What factors weighed with you on that decision?

I wanted the capital to be accessible to all parts of the state, and Amaravati was the ideal location. There were many opinions against it such as the recommendations of the Sivaramakrishnan Committee and some objections by vested interests as well. But I took a logical decision. Amaravati is geographically a central place from Srikakulam to Kuppam. Then there is a social infrastructure here. We have historic cities in this region with a social infrastructure like Vijayawada, Guntur, Tenali and Mangalagiri. If there is no social infrastructure, there will be no impact. It will remain as a small city.

I knew that people would say I am centralising development again. That’s not true. We have taken up a lot of decentralised development activities. We have urbanisation plans for every district. We have dispersed premier educational institutions all over the state. We have industrial pockets coming up in every district.

The other challenge I faced was to get land for the capital. It was difficult. That’s why I decided to make farmers partners in the capital through the Land Pooling Scheme. I was heavily criticised but the farmers were wise. They came forward to give us land. Now, it is my responsibility to see that the value of land given by them increases. That’s why I turned to Singapore to build a city that will drive our economy. I told them what I was looking for and they understood. They delivered all the three master plans within six months.

What is the basis of your Singapore connect?

It is my credibility. Even when I was in the opposition, they called me and invited me to present my views there. They believed in me because of my credibility.

In your first stint as chief minister you turned to the west for investment. You turned to people like Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Bill Gates. Now you look exclusively east although the economies there are in slowing down. What are the reasons for this switch?

I am not saying no to the west. I am certainly looking to China, Singapore and Japan for investment. I will go to the West but later. It’s part of my strategy. I first went to Singapore for plans. Then I went to Japan for investments and technology. And I then approached China. They are all economies that are looking to invest abroad. I turn to Singapore because I like their work ethic. They plan and adopt best practices. They believe in order. Japan used to invest in China but is now looking elsewhere for opportunities. China too is an aggressive investor. I think India is the best investment destination for them, and I want Andhra Pradesh to attract them. Amaravati will help me in that pursuit.

How much investment are you expecting?

We will soon start our promotional effort for Amaravati. Then investments will start flowing in. There is already a lot of interest in Amaravati. That’s why I am making the foundation ceremony a big event. Other states have been divided and built new capitals, such as Naya Raipur, Dehradun, or Ranchi. But has any of their foundation ceremonies become international events like Amaravati? The Prime Minister is coming, ministers from Japan and Singapore are coming. You cannot attract investments without investing in relationships. Once relationships are built automatically investments will come. I have always believed in building long-term relationships to make the state strong. Yes, I will go to the west also. I will go to Silicon Valley also.

Your critics say you don’t need 33,000 acres of prime agricultural land for an administrative capital. Is that criticism justified?

Really, you think 33,000 acres is sufficient for a modern 21st century city that is expected to drive the economy of an entire state? Fortunately farmers have better wisdom. When the Singapore consultants came here, they said Amaravati is an opportunity to build a beautiful city with roads, infrastructure, greenery and living spaces that are nowhere else. They said this would be a better city than Singapore. All these plans require land. Without land there can be no development. You can’t build a city on air.

Estimates are that the entire capital city project will cost more than Rs one lakh crore. How are you planning to raise the funds?

Funding will come automatically. I have ideas, and there are opportunities. I will bring in consortiums as Amaravati development partners. They will bring funds and they will market it. If we create the infrastructure investors will come.

You have invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the ceremony. Are you expecting him to announce a special package for the capital project?

Let us see. I don’t want to comment on that. There is a bifurcation Act. There are some provisions in it. There are some promises.

Are you looking at a special package like the one Mr. Modi announced for Bihar?

No. I don’t want to comment on such things. They have done something for Andhra Pradesh in the last 16 months. The Centre did give us what all they have committed except a special package. All these things helped to certain extent.

You are organising an international event on October 22. The Prime Minister will be there, and many prospective investors and farmers who sacrificed land will be there. Is the Prime Minister is just going to make a speech and leave?

It’s an auspicious day for us. I brought water and soil from the best temples and rivers in the country and from places belonging to eminent personalities like Mahatma Gandhi and B.R. Ambedkar. Within the state, we brought soil and water from 16,000 villages and all the holy rivers of Andhra Pradesh and soil from the seven hills of Tirumala. So, I am bringing all these powerful things to reinforce Amaravati.

You mean you are basically creating circumstances so that the Prime Minister will feel that he is expected to make a commitment?

I need the Centre’s support. Our state is a 16-month-old baby. We have to take utmost care and nurture it very sincerely. Then the baby will have a future. In that process I am confident that the Cente will help. I am asking the Centre to handhold the State till we can contribute to the whole nation.

Will you be disappointed if the Prime Minister just congratulates you and leaves without making a commitment?

I am always optimistic.

What will be the course of events after the capital ceremony?

We will first build the administrative branches and then economic activity will start.

When will the farmers who gave land for the capital city receive their developed plots?

We will develop infrastructure and give back the farmers’ land. I will work it out at the earliest.

Tenant farmers and labourers constitute 60 per cent of the capital population. Are they getting the same kind of help compared as land owners?

We are giving a separate package of compensation to tenants and labourers. I am confident that with skill development, they too will have a bright future. We are creating employment for 365 days. The earlier government used to guarantee them 100 days employment. We will address the limitations in the skill development programme too.

Isn’t the steep rise in land prices actually having a discouraging effect on small entrepreneurs?

We don’t want that to happen. We are discouraging it now. You have to balance every thing. We are spreading projects to other areas.

What is your reaction to the controversy over environmental clearances?

Clearances will come automatically. We took clearances but they had to be submitted again. Some people want to maintain status quo and remain in poverty forever. They do not want to move forward.

You went to Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s house to invite him to the ceremony. How did the meeting go?

Overall, good. I want to bury the past. He was positive. I don’t have a dispute with anyone. My dispute is with development. I need more well wishers and friends. We have to sort out issues amicably in the . interest of the two States.

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