With the magic he weaved 20 years ago with Hyderabad, 65-year-old Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu is confident that he can do that, and much more, for the state’s new capital city Amaravati. Enjoying the cool breeze in the guesthouse next to the Krishna River, Mr Naidu talks to Deccan Chronicle about his dreams for Amaravati, which he says will be a truly international city and the No. 1 state capital in India. He also proudly speaks about the navaratna, the nine gems — mini cities — of Amaravati like Entertainment, Tourism, Education, Justice, Economy, Health etc., that will set the city a class apart. Before the 2019 elections, he wants to ensure that a lot of work is completed to get the most mileage out of it.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, seen as the architect of modern Hyderabad, is confident of making Amaravati, the new capital of AP, a world-class city and the No. 1 capital in India. Just two days before the October 22 foundation stone-laying ceremony of Amaravati, Mr Naidu tells Ch. V.M. Krishna Rao and U. Sudhakar Reddy that Amaravati will be an ideal city and that it will be developed as a major tourism and temple destination.
‘World will ask about Amaravati’
Q. How do you visualise Amaravati?
The state’s bifurcation gave me a good opportunity to build a world-class city. The very selection of Amaravati is unique. Nowhere in the country will you find such an ideal location. Bifurcation of states had earlier led to formation of cities like Gandhinagar, Naya Raipur and Chandigarh. As far as AP is considered, the people have had three capital cities since 1953. Amaravati will be the fourth.
It is a God-given opportunity to develop a new capital and the responsibility lies on me. You cannot find such a great place like Amaravati in any other capital in India… the 30-km riverfront on either side of the Krishna is a great national asset for us. This place has a mix of history and culture; besides, people from here have settled in many parts of the world and are involved in innovative development.
The people of this region are known to have developed many cities by establishing their institutions. Now, I am coming with a vision to develop Amaravati. There is no limit to this development. Only sky is the limit. I have had experience with building new areas in Hyderabad. When I wanted to market Hyderabad internationally 20 years ago, I was asked by international giants, “Where is Hyderabad?’. Now I am marketing Andhra Pradesh and the same people are asking me, ‘What is AP?’ And I am sure that the same question will arise in the case of Amaravati. I am now deeply immersed in marketing AP and Amaravati and I am sure I will succeed.
Q. In the past one-and-a-half years, how did you work to make Amaravati a reality?
I am happy that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is taking interest in the development of Amaravati. When the Godavari Pushkaralu was going on, he advised me to visit Kazakhstan where beautiful cities have come up. I am sending a team there. The Prime Minister is quite aware that I am busy finalising the new capital city. I have the imagination, vision and plan to develop Amaravati into an international city. I am going about it in a systematic way.
I have ensured that the government collected 33,000 acres of land in record time from farmers. Then I got the Singapore Master Plan. I will develop the city in such a way that my critics will be silenced. Even the Prime Minister doesn’t know that Amaravati has so many resources.
Q. What will be the core strengths of Amaravati? Please elaborate on the navaratna cities within Amaravati.
Amaravati is just not an administrative capital like other capitals. What is there in Delhi and Chandigarh? Both were planned for administrative purposes and nothing else. But my Amaravati will be a capital for nine different sectors of which administration is just one. Cities for Entertainment, Tourism, Education, Justice, Economy and Health will be developed with each having unique styles and attractions. It will provide both investment and employment opportunities in a big way. It will be a Blue and Green city. A water taxi service like Venice will be introduced. You will also have a number of bridges for rail and road transport and for impounding water. Under-river tunnels will be developed to provide transport that will attract more tourists.
Q. What are the finances involved in Amaravati? With no money in hand, how will you attract international or national partners for development of the city? Will the land pooled from farmers be offered to these companies?
The only asset or investment from the government side, that I have, is land. Everyone knew my development pattern as far as Cyberabad and Hitec City in Hyderabad was concerned. What I did was allot land to institutions on condition that they provide employment. That clicked. Several institutions came forward then. Microsoft and Infosys established their offices while I only provided better roads, power and water. I need not explain how it has grown today.
Similarly, my investment is land in Amaravati. You will see how it becomes a global city soon. People should come and settle here and invest. My idea is that people should come and spend their leisure time for entertainment. It is going to be a hub for several activities. Through this, the government will get revenue from taxes. I can invest the money for other projects. It is not a problem, the only thing needed is commitment to transform this into a global city. I will do it.
Q. What next after laying the foundation stone for Amaravati? What are the deadlines and what are the projects that are going to come up first? Have the master developer and Amaravati development partners been finalised?
The Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) mode will be adopted for construction of key buildings. The iconic towers will be built first. Selecting the master developer and Amaravati development partners will be done soon after the foundation ceremony through methods like Swiss Challenge. The Amaravati city memorial and time capsule will be done immediately. We will start infrastructure development soon after the foundation stone laying ceremony.
The iconic towers will come up fast with the partnership of private national and international partners. We are also inviting top entities of the world. Out of the nine cities to be developed, education city will soon be realised. Top Indian and international educational institutions like SRM, Amity, VITS and Cambridge are showing interest. Our aim is to bring the top six to seven out of 10 world class educational institutions here.
Q. The Opposition leader and other parties have been saying that you and your government are ‘gambling with land pooled forcibly from farmers’… YSRC chief Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has refused to attend the foundation day. What are your views?
Does the Opposition want me to build a slum here? Farmers have happily given the land. They have all benefited due to land pooling. The land rates have gone up seven times. If I don’t develop the land and build the city, will the farmers keep quiet? The plan of the Opposition is that if they create hurdles, the farmers will revolt against me and will want to beat me up. I have to ensure the farmers’ land rates go up and they benefit for their act of giving the land.
Jagan’s father Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy had given away 5.5 lakh acres in the name of SEZs. They threatened farmers and took away the land. Instead, we have convinced farmers and made them partners in development. The Opposition, if they really want to get involved in the historic development of Amaravati, would need to cooperate and behave in a constructive manner. Jagan’s refusal to attend the capital foundation ceremony shows his narrow-mindedness.
Q. Do you think that you have got enough help from the Centre? Are you expecting the Prime Minister to announce special status or a special package for AP during the foundation day ceremony?
I am happy that the NDA government led by Narendra Modi is very much committed to the development of Amaravati and Andhra Pradesh. They have cleared almost all the provisions made in the AP Reorganisation Act, regarding establishing several Central educational and other institutions. Some more institutions, that were not part of the Act, are also being established.
We need both special category status that was promised by the Prime Minister of the UPA government and also a special financial package. There is a need to give a push to AP, which was deprived of a capital and other issues at the time of bifurcation. After all, the Central government will not lose anything by doing this. If they invest, we will get taxes, which will be shared by both the state and the Centre. So, in a way the investments are revenue generating endeavours. AP is a baby that was born 16 months ago. There is a need to nurse it to proper health.
Q. In the past two months, you have concentrated only on Vijayawada. You had promised TD cadres earlier that you would work towards bringing the TD to power in Telangana State too. Have you abandoned your TS plans?
I will go to Hyderabad whenever there is a need. Now I am the national president of the Telugu Desam. So whenever there is an issue concerning Telangana State affairs I will go and talk to my party leaders there. One thing I must tell you, Telangana State TD leaders are now doing a good job. Here I have a commitment to develop the capital and resolve the issues of AP. Sonia Gandhi is the Congress party’s national president. How many times has she visited Andhra Pradesh?
Q. It was surprising that you personally went to invite Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao for the foundation ceremony.
At the time of bifurcation, some unsavoury and undesirable things happened. Hatred was spread. Some issues led to clashes. Why do we need all these? I am for open debate and resolution of all disputes. I do not have any hatred against anybody. I am for equal development of both Telugu-speaking states. We cannot progress if we create hatred and differences. That was why I met K. Chandrasekhar Rao garu and spent some time with him. I hope he will also realise and do whatever is best from his side to minimise disputes and strive for the overall development of Telangana.
Q. There was bitter criticism in the past that you had ignored other parts of United AP while focusing on Hyderabad. Some critics are now saying that you are ignoring North Andhra and Rayalaseema and are confining development only to Amaravati, which falls in Krishna and Guntur districts.
It is not true that I am doing injustice to either Rayalaseema or North Andhra Pradesh regions. Indeed, I belong to Rayalaseema. Several Central institutions like IIT and others have been established in Rayalaseema.
Anantapur, due to its proximity to the Bengaluru international airport, has a lot of potential for development. Similarly, Kurnool will get more investments in the future due to its proximity to Hyderabad. Visakhapatnam is the North Andhra Pradesh hub and gateway. There is no question of leaving out some areas.
Q. Would you please explain the other priorities of your government besides the capital city?
I am going to develop the irrigation sector like the power grid that spreads across the state. My priority is to finish the Polavaram dam spillway at least by 2018 so that water can be tapped by gravity through the right main canal. The existing canal of 17,000 cusecs capacity will be improved and widened so that it can carry at least 50,000 cusecs of water. This water will be realised at the Prakasam barrage from where it will be connected to the Penna river system by improving the existing Buckingham Canal. Water will be lifted to the Somasila project and from there to Kandaleru. The backwaters of Somasila will be diverted to other areas in Rayalaseema. Integrating all the rivers and canals in the state will be a priority for me.
‘I have no temptations’
Q. You have made your son Nara Lokesh, general secretary of the Telugu Desam recognising his contribution for the welfare of the party and its workers. Like Akhilesh Yadav was made Chief Minister in UP by Mulayam Singh Yadav, and K.T. Rama Rao made minister in his father K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s Cabinet, will there be a bigger role for Lokesh in the AP Cabinet or government before 2019?
The party’s general secretary post is in itself gives him big role. Position in the government is meant to serve the people. It should be used for public good. My family doesn’t need anything more. The state should prosper. Twenty-five years ago, I had two responsibilities, one to my family and the other to the public. Out of 24 hours, excluding the hours I slept, I spent the rest of the time discharging my duties to the public. I have no temptations. I don’t even have a taste for special food. Not having temptations is my strength.
I have no interest in gold or vehicles. I don’t know automobile brands and can’t identify them by seeing vehicles. Regarding family’s welfare, I started Heritage Dairy 25 years ago and trained my wife to run it. The group has grown. I ensured that both Lokesh and Brahmani got good education so that they could become disciplined and useful citizens. Both studied well.
My whole family is committed to the public cause. Of late, all four family members — my wife Bhuvaneswari, Lokesh and Brahmani and I — except my grandson (smiles), have adopted a village under the Smart Village concept.
Q.You seemed very happy the other day at the Annaprasana function of grandson Devansh.
I love Devansh. But I don’t have enough time to spend with him. My grandson hasn’t come here (to Vijayawada) yet. He will be coming for the Amaravati foundation day function. At the same time, I don’t have much attachments as I have dedicated my life to the people.
Q. Does your family visit you at the Lingamaneni Guesthouse? How is it being here in Vijayawada?
Bhuvaneswari comes here regularly. Lokesh comes now and then. I am enjoying nature at the Vijayawada riverfront. It’s very peaceful. The new capital Amaravati will also be like this. People can live happily here, enjoying the serene atmosphere.
Q. Do you go for a walk on the riverfront?
I am busy these days. Going to places in the 13 districts, trying to attract investors etc. Even Bhuvaneswari suggests that I take a brisk walk daily. I find little time.
Q. When will there be a Cabinet expansion?
There is no hurry. I will look into it after the foundation ceremony. It’s all in my hands.
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