VIJAYAWADA / GUNTUR: Sivaramakrishnan Committee rightly stressed the need for decentralisation and derided the Government’s fetish for a Super capital. In these days of superfast broad band connectivity and well developed transport networks, what is the need for setting up all offices, residential spaces, commercial and industrial hubs at one place? Is it not just another Hyderabad type of capital model, which only creates problems later?
New capital cities are purposefully designed and built to ensure development of not just for the city but the whole state. So the government’s priority when deciding new capital has to be not just the ‘city’ but the state.
AP, which is at cross roads post bifurcation is experiencing a strange situation in locating the ‘capital’ with no city emerging as clear favourite, owing to political, development and ecological issues.
Each region has it own merits and demerits. In case of much publicised Vijayawada-Guntur region, which is located in the centre of the state with well connected by road and railway network, ecological and economical repercussions, are a cause of concern.
Vijayawada-Guntur region has sufficient land and water resources to cater to a growing city. But there is an apprehension that selecting Vijayawada, which is far better in terms of development than other regions, like Uttarandhra, Rayalaseema and Prakasam would only create further rift between the people of the state and will recreate the scenes which occurred in Hyderabad.
More importantly even the lower and middle class sections of the region have lot of apprehensions over the capital, as they are fearing that cost of living would escalate and development in the ‘capital’ will only be limited to higher income groups, real estate dealers and vested interest groups in the government and political class who have invested heavily in the lands of the region.
Both the State and central governments gave enough indications about the decentralised model for development as it is acceptable to all and the answer for ills of excess concentration.
In the present times, where advanced developments in architectural and construction fields have made vertical development of cities a reality, also there is excessive focus on land requirement for the capital. If planned properly like Chandigarh, a good capital city can be built within five to six thousand acres. The talk of needing twenty to thirty thousands acres does not gain much weight considering the advances in urban infrastructure and living all over the world.
For instance in Boston, US, while the city has a capacity to house six million people, about ten million work in the city. They daily commute to the city and return back to nearby suburbs.
When cost of living in cities is skyrocketing and transport facilities have developed, there is no need for all the people working in the capital to stay there. People can just come to work and get back which will not just ease the pressure on the capital city but will also ensure that better living standards are provided to all.
Though AP state has certain problems in zeroing in on a city for capital, there are also opportunities in this tricky situation. But these opportunities can be utilised only if government puts common man’s interests first than interests of industrialists and politicians, in deciding the new capital.
CHANGE IS THE NAME OF THE GAME
Countries change their capital because they expect some type of political, social or economic benefit and hope the new capital will develop into a cultural hub and make the country a more stable place.
Here are capital relocations that have taken place in the last few centuries:
- Since 1982, Sri Lanka’s Parliament has met in Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte, but some other government functions remain in Colombo.
- Malaysia moved some of its administrative functions to Putrajaya in 1999. The official capital remains Kuala Lumpur.
- Former capital of Thailand is Ayutthaya. It is now Bangkok.
- Pakistan from Karachi to Rawalpindi to Islamabad - changes occurred in 1950s and 1960s.
- Turkey from Istanbul to Ankara - 1923
- Japan from Kyoto to Tokyo - 1868
- Israel from Tel Aviv-Jaffo to Jerusalem - 1950
- Saudi Arabia from Diriyah to Riyadh - 1818
- Uzbekistan from Samarkand to Tashkent - 1930
- Afghanistan from Kandahar to Kabul - 1776
Iran - possible Future Capital Change
Former capitals of Iran include Esfahan and Shiraz. It is now Tehran. But Iran is considering relocating its capital from Tehran, which could experience a catastrophic earthquake. Leaders and seismologists are studying regions near Qom and Isfahan as possible places for new capital.
- Former capitals of Italy include Turin, Florence and Salerno. The current capital is Rome.
- Bonn was the capital of West Germany from 1949-1990. Reunified Germany’s capital initially was Bonn but was moved to Berlin in 1999.
- Kragujevac served as the capital of Serbia several times. It is now Belgrade.
- Poland from Krakow to Warsaw - 1596
- Finland from Turku to Helsinki - 1812