First phase of Indian city within 5 years

First phase of Indian city within 5 years

The truncated southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, which lost its historic Hyderabad city to the newly formed Telangana state, now has an opportunity to build itself a brand new state capital from the ground up.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu - who put Hyderabad on the global information technology map by aggressively wooing software majors like Microsoft and Oracle to set up shop in the city - has promised to create the first phase of the world-class city in place of Hyderabad.

The first phase of the city, which includes government, commercial and residential buildings apart from main roads and sanitation facilities, will be completed within five years.

The new state capital and its surrounding areas, which will be developed with Singapore's help, will come up in the Vijayawada- Guntur region, across 7,325 sq km of what is largely an underdeveloped area.

The area is roughly 10 times the size of Singapore.

More than 17 villages will make way for the development of the new capital city.

While Singapore will be the partner for creating the masterplan for the city, Mr Naidu has announced that companies from Japan are willing to help build it.

The need for Andhra Pradesh to create a new capital came up following the creation of Telangana - the country's 29th and newest state - on June 2 this year.

Under the terms of the split, Telangana will share Hyderabad as its capital city with Andhra Pradesh, which has been given 10 years to develop its own capital.

The decision, which led to protests from Andhra Pradesh, was taken because Hyderabad falls geographically in the Telangana region.

There was even a proposal to turn Hyderabad into a union territory, but that was shot down.

Telangana itself was born after a separatist movement that lasted more than five decades and which sometimes turned violent as people grew resentful that their aspirations were ignored.

Those who lobbied for forming the new state, which includes drought-prone areas, said its development was ignored by the Andhra Pradesh government.

The decision to go ahead with the split was finally taken by the previous national government led by the Congress party - unpopular due to a series of corruption cases and weak leadership - to stem its dwindling popularity in Andhra Pradesh.

Desperate for backing in the south, the Congress hoped the move would push up support for it in the Telangana region during the May general election.

But instead of backing the Congress, voters across the state plumbed for Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief K. Chandrashekar Rao, who had led a 13-year political battle for the split.

In Andhra Pradesh, too, anger over the bifurcation of the state and the loss of Hyderabad city saw the Congress performing poorly.

Since the creation of Telangana, the two states have been operating side by side.

Government buildings in Hyderabad have been divided between the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh administrations and so has the legislative assembly.

This arrangement is set to continue until Mr Naidu creates his own capital and moves out of Hyderabad.

"There are a lot of issues, ranging from governance of Hyderabad to distribution of power and water across the two states.

"This will continue for some time," said Dr Bhaskara Rao of the Delhi-based Centre for Media Studies.

gnirmala@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on December 9, 2014.
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