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Chandrababu Naidu's return gives new life to his dream project Amaravati



Amaravati, June 11 (IANS) The return of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) to power in Andhra Pradesh has brought the spotlight back on Amaravati, giving new hope to farmers and others, who had been fighting for more than four years against the previous YSRCP government’s move to shift the state capital.

The return of N. Chandrababu Naidu, who envisioned Amaravati on the banks of the Krishna River as a dream capital and world-class city about a decade ago, has brought cheers to those waging a relentless fight to demand the development of Amaravati as the only state capital.

The landslide victory of the TDP-Jana Sena-BJP alliance and Chandrababu Naidu’s announcement that Amaravati is the state capital has come as a big relief for farmers, who had given 33,000 acres of land for development of the state capital in the hope of a bright future.

However, their dreams were shattered after the previous YSRCP government announced that the administrative capital would be shifted to Visakhapatnam.

Even before the swearing-in of the new state government, authorities started laying the ground for the resumption of works on the greenfield capital city after a gap of five years.

Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (APCRDA) has started clearing bushes and shrubs around important buildings in Amaravati to signal that the new government will go for a full-scale resumption of works.

The CRDA employed dozens of workers and roped in 83 cranes and tippers to clear bushes around the Secretariat, High Court, Seed Access Road and under-construction buildings like residential quarters for ministers, judges and legislators.

The works on residential quarters and other components of the mega project came to a halt in December 2019 after the YSRCP government reversed the decision of the earlier TDP government to develop Amaravati as the state capital.

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Neerabh Kumar Prasad, who took over as the State Chief Secretary four days ago, is overseeing the works currently underway to know the status of the different components of the project.

On December 17, 2023, protests by farmers and women of Amaravati completed four years.

It was on December 17, 2019, that the then Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy announced in the state Assembly that three state capitals will be developed reversing the decision of the previous TDP government to develop Amaravati as the state capital.

The government planned to develop Visakhapatnam as the administrative capital, Kurnool as the judicial capital and Amaravati only as a legislative capital.

The farmers were up in arms and legally challenged the move.

Amaravati Parirakshana Samithi (APS), which is spearheading the movement against three capitals, undertook two padayatra during the last two years to mobilise public support for their demand.

On March 3, 2022, the Andhra Pradesh High Court directed the state government to develop Amaravati as the state capital in six months.

In November 2022, the Supreme Court while hearing the Special Leave Petition filed by the state government, stayed the High Court’s directions to develop infrastructure in Amaravati within a stipulated time frame.

The Supreme Court, however, did not stay the other part of the judgement, which had declared Amaravati as the state capital and that the law on three capitals was not valid.

The new government is likely to resume works from Uddandarayunipalem, the place where the foundation stone was laid in October 2015 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Chandrababu Naidu had got the master plan for Amaravati prepared by Singapore.

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With nine theme cities and 27 townships, it was planned in an area of 217 square km as a world-class city.

Designed not merely as an administrative capital but as an economic and job-creating hub and tourism centre, it was planned to be developed in three phases — seed area or core capital, capital city and capital region.

Amaravati then attracted the attention of investors from countries like Australia, Japan, Germany, Singapore and Britain.

Naidu’s grandiose plans to build the state capital require an estimated Rs 1.5 lakh crore. Works worth Rs 38,000 crore on projects like roads and state secretariat complex were launched in 2018.

Ever since he came to power in 2019, Jagan Mohan Reddy has been saying that people’s welfare and not Amaravati are his priority.

Alleging a big land scam in Amaravati, Jagan had claimed that Chandrababu Naidu and other leaders of TDP resorted to insider trading as they were privy to the information where the new capital was going to be located and purchased prime land at throwaway prices.

The new TDP government put on hold all the works in Amaravati, citing the irregularities committed by the previous YSRCP government in awarding contracts.

The construction activity came to a grinding halt and created an atmosphere of uncertainty, leading to a big slump in land prices.

The World Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) were the first to pull out of a project to fund Amaravati’s development.

The World Bank and AIIB had committed $300 million and $200 million, respectively, for the project.

The biggest blow came when a consortium of Singapore companies closed the Amaravati Capital City Startup Project, the agreement for which was signed by the then TDP government.

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The government said they mutually decided to cancel the project as the consortium had failed to respond to the concerns raised.

Unfazed by Chandrababu Naidu’s criticism that the government is killing a golden goose, YSRCP leaders said that during his five-year rule, only five per cent of works were completed by spending Rs 4,900 crore.

The worst affected by the government’s move were farmers of Amaravati, who had been given 33,000 acres of land for building the capital after the government’s assurance to return them to developed property.

Anger and unrest had gripped 29 villages of Guntur district.

An estimated 24,000 farmer families had taken to the streets as their hopes of a bright future were shattered.

The real estate market, which was booming till early 2019, came crashing with the land value falling by more than 50 per cent.

Thousands of workers, including a large number of migrants, from states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were rendered jobless.

Farmers, who voluntarily gave lands ranging from half an acre to 50 acres, were left in the lurch as they felt that Jagan Mohan Reddy did this out of vengeance towards Chandrababu Naidu.

For every acre of cultivable land, the farmers were promised 1,000 square yards of residential plots and 250 square yards of commercial plots with all the infrastructure.

They were also promised Rs.50,000 annuity per acre with an annual hike of 10 per cent.

Nearly all the farmers received the allotment papers but their dreams of owning developed plots remained on paper with the change of government in 2019.

YSRCP’s crushing defeat in the 2024 elections and the return of TDP have raised new hope among them.



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Yogi Adityanath pays floral tribute to Shyama Prasad Mukherjee on his death anniversary




Lucknow, June 23 (IANS) Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Sunday said that BJP ideologue Shyama Prasad Mukherjee made the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of a united India, advocating for one nation, one leader, and one law.

Paying floral tribute to Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, the founder President of Bharatiya Jana Sangh on his death anniversary at the Civil Hospital premises, Hazratganj, the Chief Minister said: “Following the country’s independence in 1947 and the implementation of the constitution in 1950, the Congress-led government attempted to undermine national integrity by introducing Article 370.”

He said that in response, Mukherjee, who was then serving as the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, resigned from his post and launched a massive movement to abolish Article 370 in Kashmir, for the prestige of the country.

The Chief Minister said that Mukherjee, along with thousands of workers of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, launched a campaign for the Kashmir Satyagraha and sacrificed his life.

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“Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the NDA government has honoured the sentiments of one nation, one leader, and one law by abrogating Article 370 in Kashmir,” the Chief Minister said.

He said that this is a true tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for Kashmir, the country’s integrity, and border security.



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War of words hots up between TDP, YSRCP over 'illegal’ party offices




Amaravati, June 23 (IANS) The war of words between the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) intensified on Sunday after demolition of the latter’s central office in Guntur District and notices to two more offices in Visakhapatnam.

While YSRCP has termed the action of the NDA government-led by TDP as political vendetta, the latter defended its action on the ground that the party offices were being built ‘illegally’.

Launching a fresh attack on YSRCP, state minister and TDP General Secretary, Nara Lokesh on Sunday posted on his ‘X’ handle pictures of YSRCP offices being built at various places in Andhra Pradesh and alleged that the previous government led by former Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy allotted 42 acres in 26 districts for 33 years for a nominal lease of Rs.1,000 per acre.

“Jagan, is Andhra Pradesh your grandfather Raja Reddy’s property,” asked Lokesh, who is son of Chief Minister and TDP President, N Chandrababu Naidu.

Lokesh alleged that Jagan was constructing ‘palaces’ with Rs.500 crore ‘looted’ from the people.

“On these 42 acres worth more than Rs. 600 crore, grabbed for your land thirst, 4,200 poor can be given house sites. With Rs.500 crore being spent on your luxurious palaces, houses can be constructed for 25,000 poor,” posted Lokesh.

“What is this madness for palaces? Is there no end to your thirst for money,” asked Lokesh.

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The TDP alleged that Jagan Mohan Reddy built ‘palaces’ for himself in nine cities including Hyderabad and Bengaluru and he was now building ‘palaces’ for his party offices with public money and without approvals from authorities concerned.

It alleged that 42.24 acres of government land in 26 districts was allotted for YSRCP’s offices for a 33-year lease at a nominal cost of Rs.1,000 per acre.

“The value of the 42.24 acres land is Rs.688 crore while more than Rs.500 crore of public money is being spent to build these palaces,” it said.

The TDP claimed that permissions were not taken for YSRCP offices, except in Prakasam District.

The YSRCP has hit back at the ruling party, reminding it that between 2014 and 2019, the TDP government had allotted government lands in 10 districts on lease for 33 to 99 years for Rs.1,000 per acre.

“If you do it, it’s politics and if we do, it’s land grabbing,” reads a post on YSRCP’s official handle on ‘X’.

“Have you not issued a GO and built TDP offices across the state,” the Opposition party asked.

It claimed that the land for NTR Bhavan (TDP office) in Hyderabad was also allotted in the same way.

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Alleging that its central office, which was nearing completion, was demolished in an act of political vendetta, YSRCP said if its government had resorted to a similar act, no TDP office would have remained in the state.

The under-construction office building of YSRCP at Seethanagaram of Tadepalli Mandal in Guntur District was demolished by the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (APCRDA) and Mangalagiri Tadepalli Municipal Corporation (MTMC) authorities in the early hours of Saturday.

The APCRDA had issued a notice on June 10 to the YSRCP for taking up construction on the ‘illegally occupied’ land of 870.40 square meters within the boat yard compound of the irrigation department.

The APCRDA stated that the previous government leased the two acres of land, which was a boat yard and water body, to the YSRCP on lease at Rs 1,000 per acre, per annum for 33 years for their party office.

It was also alleged that the party undertook construction without getting approvals from the irrigation department and the MTMC.

The YSRCP had filed a writ petition in the High Court, seeking orders to the CRDA and MTMC not to take any coercive action against the building structure, until hearing was completed.

Claiming that the High Court had ordered a halt on any demolition activity, the Opposition party has slammed the government for violating the court’s order.

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YSRCP plans to approach the court on Monday, seeking criminal action against those who carried out the demolition.

YSRCP leaders termed it a ‘destructive’ vendetta of the TDP-led NDA government.

Jagan Mohan Reddy alleged that Chandrababu Naidu had taken vendetta politics to another level. He interpreted the demolition as a signal of the government’s aggressive stance for the next five years.

Even as a war of words erupted over the demolition, the Town Planning wing of the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) issued show-cause notices to YSRCP seeking an explanation over ‘unauthorised construction’ of the party offices at Yendada and Anakapalli.

It was alleged that YSRCP proceeded with the construction of G+1 building over a stretch of two acres at Yendada without permission from the authorities concerned.

Similarly, construction of the YSRCP office at Anakapalli was taken up allegedly without approvals.

YSRCP leader and former minister Gudivada Amarnath removed the notice pasted on the office at Yedanda.

He claimed that the land was allotted in 2022 and the construction work began in March 2023.

He also stated that around Rs. 13 lakh and Rs. 30 lakh were paid to the government as taxes for plan approvals for the party offices at Yendada and Anakapalli respectively.



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SC to hear issue of tree felling in Delhi's Ridge area




New Delhi, June 23 (IANS) Supreme Court (SC) will hear the issue of tree felling in Delhi’s Ridge area where a suo moto notice of criminal contempt was issued to the Vice Chairperson of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).

As per the causelist published on the website of the apex court, a special vacation bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan will hear the matter on June 24.

In the previous hearing, the top court had asked the DDA Vice Chairperson why he should not be prosecuted for criminal contempt of court for wilful breach of its orders prohibiting the felling of trees.

“We are not prepared to believe that the contractor entrusted with the work of widening the road has indulged in cutting trees of his own volition. Obviously, it has to be on the basis of the instructions from the officers of the DDA,” it had said.

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Further, the Supreme Court had said that the DDA Vice Chairperson misled the Lt Governor, who is the ex-officio Chairperson, by forwarding a proposal to set up a committee of experts to minimise the trees felled.

“We hope and trust that the Hon’ble Lt. Governor will take this issue very seriously, not only in his capacity as the Lt. Governor of Delhi but also in his capacity as the Chairman of the DDA,” it had added.

The top court was of the view that apart from the statutory requirement of compulsory afforestation, 100 new trees per every tree felled must be planted by the DDA.

It was dealing with contempt pleas alleging that a large number of trees in the ridge had been felled there by the DDA to construct an approach road between the Chhattarpur Road and the SAARC University near Maidan Garhi.

In an earlier order, the SC had said that other areas having morphological ridges were required to be protected and no permission for construction should be given there.

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Goa CM seeks Rs 700 cr from Centre for water augmentation projects




Panaji, June 23 (IANS) Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has demanded a grant of Rs 700 crore from the Centre for Goa to construct dams and to enhance the capacity of existing dams as well as to prevent soil erosion.

Sawant on Saturday attended the pre-budget meeting chaired by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and placed the demands.

He said that there is a need to strengthen the water reservoirs and also protect coastal areas from soil erosion.

“I have demanded Rs 700 crore for water augmentation projects and for taking measures to stop soil erosion,” he said.

Sources informed that the Water Resources Department is planning to construct new dams in the coastal state.

The Chief Minister said that these initiatives are essential for Goa’s development, and expressed certainty that they will be included in the upcoming Union Budget 2024-2025.

Sawant had recently urged locals to take bamboo production to protect coastal areas from soil erosion.

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“We have focused on bamboo plantation. Wherever there are rivers and beaches, soil erosion is taking place on a large scale. We can stop this by planting bamboo,” Sawant said.

According to the Environment and Climate Change department, the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) in the Beach Carrying Capacity Report has observed that overall for a coastal stretch of about 105 km, 35 per cent of the coast is rocky terrain, 20 per cent of the coast is stable, 27 per cent is under erosion and 17 per cent of the coasts experiences accretion.

MLAs from the coastal areas of the state had complained about the soil erosion taking place on beaches, which is affecting the tourism business.



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Vegetable prices skyrocket in Kolkata after scanty rainfall




Kolkata, June 23 (IANS) Vegetable prices in Kolkata have skyrocketed following scanty rainfall in South Bengal.

Some of the staple vegetable items whose prices have skyrocketed include eggplant, bitter gourd, green chilly, cucumber, tomato, capsicum, beans, cauliflower and cabbage.

While eggplant price ranges from between Rs 120 and Rs 150 a kilogram, the same for bitter gourd is between Rs 100 and Rs 120. The price of green chilli, a must in cooking for any average Bengali family, is between Rs 150 to Rs 200 a kilogram. Cucumber, an essential salad item, is selling between Rs 100 and Rs 120 a kilogram.

Tomatoes are priced between Rs 100 and Rs 120 kilograms while capsicum being priced at around Rs 200 a kilogram has become a matter of luxury now. Cauliflower at Rs 50 a piece and cabbage at Rs 60 a piece are selling at a comparatively higher price.

A member of the task force constituted by the state government to keep the price of essential commodities in the retail markets of the state under control said that they have done a review of the situation and found that the lack of supply of vegetables as per demand is resulting in the current high price of the products.

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“We interacted with the vegetable vendors at different retail markets in the city. They claimed that because of the insufficient rainfall, there had been a hit in the production at the vegetable hubs of the state. So the supply is much less compared to the demand. As claimed by the retailers, since they are also purchasing the same vegetables at higher prices from the wholesale markets, they are charging more to maintain their profit margin thus pushing up the price of vegetables in the retail markets,” the member of the task force said.

However, he added, the task force members are not ruling out the possibility of a section of the vegetable traders taking advantage of the prevailing situation and resorting to hoarding.

He said that we expect the vegetable prices in the retail markets to stabilise with the arrival of a full-fledged monsoon.



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