The Human Rights Forum (HRF) finds unacceptable the decision of the AP Cabinet to locate the Capital city in the Vijayawada-Guntur region. We concur with the recommendation of the Sivaramakrishnan Committee that locating the capital in this area would entail loss of very precious agricultural land that would impact negatively upon food security and the environment and would also displace farmers and agricultural labourers in large numbers. Discarding this recommendation would amount to a historic blunder.
We also agree with the Committee’s view that a single ‘super-city’, like the one being repeatedly touted by the TDP government, is undesirable. The capital must be more or less centrally located and accessible to all parts of the State and land acquisition for it must involve minimal displacement and environmental damage. Official activity must be dispersed across the State with decentralization being the cardinal principal.
However, there are several aspects of the Expert Committee’s report that we find problematic. It is obvious from a reading of the report that it is at best a perfunctory exercise, not based on wide data collection and thorough research. Where was the need to rush through the report when the Committee could have sought extension of the deadline so as to bring out a more thorough, well thought out and comprehensive one? Also, we have serious objections to some of the recommendations.
Most glaring is specific omission in the report of the acute predicament of forest dwelling adivasis and coast-based fishers. If the committee was at all sensitive to their needs, it would have placed on record its serious disquiet to both the Polavaram project and the Vizag-Chennai PCPIR industrial corridor as they would devastate these communities. It does no such thing. Some of the formulations in the report are plainly contradictory. For instance, it is stated that sustainable development must be a core principle and yet it endorses the Dugarajapatnam Port proposal even though it will threaten the highly eco-sensitive Pulicat Lake. Indeed, an uncritical acceptance of the current destructive economic model, instead of a people-driven and inclusive one, is a major failing of the report.
We appeal to the government not to rush through the finalisation of the Vijayawada-Guntur region as Capital. This is no time to pander to narrow interests but to keep the long-term democratic perspective in sight. We urge the government to take some more time and come to a final decision about the Capital only after wider consultation and taking into consideration the opinion of all sections of the people, particularly those of Rayalaseema and other backward regions of the State.
VS Krishna S Jeevan Kumar
(HRF general secretary) (HRF president)