Amaravati: Andhra’s New Capital
On 1 April, 2015, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Mr. N Chandrababu Naidu announced that the state’s new capital city will be named after the historically significant city of Amaravati. In 2014, following the separation of Telangana from the state of Andhra Pradesh, both states had agreed to retain Hyderabad as a joint capital for a decade. It became apparent, though, that Andhra Pradesh would eventually need a new capital. This caused much dissent since Hyderabad, the capital of undivided Andhra Pradesh, had a robust economic and infrastructural foundation and is considered one of the prominent IT hubs of India. CM Naidu, however, plans to build Amaravati into an enviable modern city with state-of-art infrastructure.
The proposed capital city of Amaravati is located in central Andhra Pradesh, somewhere between two main cities – Guntur and Vijayawada. The name of the proposed capital is derived from the ancient city of Amaravati, which is also located in the same region. The Andhra cabinet not only approved the name of the capital but also gave the nod to the master plan (first phase) prepared by the government agencies of Singapore.
The Golden Legacy of Amaravati
According to ancient Hindu legends, Amaravati is the capital of Svarga (roughly translated in English as heaven). The ancient city of Amaravati was the capital of the Satavahana dynasty that held sway over much of the Deccan region between 230 BCE and 220 BCE. The city of Amaravati, by way of its links with the Satavahana Empire, is steeped in Telugu history and heritage.
The city of Amaravati had also been a prominent centre of Buddhist studies in the 2nd century BCE. The famed Buddhist Stupa of Amaravati is believed to have been commissioned by Emperor Ashoka himself. The stupa is very well known and is inscribed with panels depicting stories of Buddha.
The city of Amaravati saw golden times as part of the Vijayanagara Empire. Under the Hindu rulers of the region, the Amareshwara (Shiva) temple of the city gained much patronage.
Plans for the New Capital
Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has great plans for the new capital city. He said that the city has both ‘vaasthu balam’ and ‘nama balam’, indicating that both the name and the location are auspicious. According to the CM, the government of Singapore has come forward to help construct this new city, which will be “the world’s best city”. Among the initial plans in place for the new capital is a 200-km highway connecting it with the major cities of Vijayawada and Guntur. Two ring roads and a number of radial roads are likely to be built to connect the city with all the important towns of the state. Amaravati will also have excellent road connectivity with Hyderabad, Chennai, Kakinada, Bangalore, and Kurnool. The New Delhi-Hyderabad freight corridor is likely to be extended to Amaravati.
While the master plan for Phase I of the capital’s construction will only be ready by mid-May, a number of Japanese companies are already being counted among the aspirants keen to partner up in planning and construction. Mangalagiri is likely to be the site for the nearest airport.
The development of this grand capital may, however, lead the Andhra Pradesh government into much trouble, critics feel. The funds required to build this city are estimated at about INR 20,000 crore. Currently, the state has sanctioned only about INR 1,500 crore with a promise to allocate more after the draft plan is presented.
Why a New Capital City?
Why does Andhra Pradesh need a new city to be constructed as a capital? Why could not a major city such as Vijayawada or Guntur have been chosen as the capital? These are some of the major questions that are now being raised. Some feel that it is an attempt by CM Naidu to avoid alienating the economic and political lobbies in either city. Besides, choosing either city may not have been liked by the influencers of the Rayalaseema region.
The construction of a new capital city also poses a number of challenges. Hundreds and thousands of acres of fertile agricultural land will have to be sacrificed in the effort. This may take a massive toll on Andhra Pradesh’s agrarian economy. How much this affects India’s rice production is also to be seen, since the state is one of the largest producers of rice. The site chosen for Amaravati is rich in natural resources. Preservation of these resources will decide the ecological harmony of the region in decades to come.