ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Amaravati: The Making of a Disaster Capital in Andhra Pradesh?

The Government of Andhra Pradesh has procured land for the construction of the state’s new capital city, Amaravati, through a land pooling scheme that it presented as a viable alternative to the forceful takeover of private land through the use of eminent domain. Drawing on five months of ethnographic fieldwork, the strategies of coercion and co-optation employed by the state government to persuade local landowners to part with their land and the socio-economic effects of dispossession and unemployment in Dalit communities are investigated. The urbanisation scheme can be characterised as a disaster in the making, with civil society unable to resist as the state government follows a high-modernist ideology of simplifying nature and society, implementing its plans through coercive power.

In December 2014, the Government of Andhra Pradesh (GoAP) declared its intention to procure 33,000 acres of privately-owned agricultural land located in the region between Vijayawada and Guntur. To that end, it initiated a land pooling scheme (LPS), in which landowners could participate “as partners in development” in the creation of the new capital city of Andhra Pradesh: Amaravati, “the People’s Capital.”

While the GoAP has largely succeeded in acquiring the desired land, in three villages in particular, there was substantial dissent from farmers who refused to take part in the LPS. In one of these villages, Penumaka, only 50% of the land has been procured at the time of writing.1 From August to December 2016, I stayed in Penumaka and conducted ethnographic fieldwork in order to understand not just the dynamics of the negotiations between the farmers and the state government, but also the socio-economic effects of the megacity project among landless workers. From my research, I describe two highly disturbing dynamics which have evolved as a result of the LPS. The first concerns the strategies of co-optation and coercion employed by the state government to acquire land. While the LPS has been framed by the GoAP as a democratic alternative to the use of eminent domain under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (Land Acquisition [LAA]), I show how the authorities employed both soft and hard power to get landowners to part “voluntarily” with their land.

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Updated On : 20th May, 2019

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