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Make Vizag Seemandhra capital

A.K. Sabharwal

Come 2nd June, 2014, the great state of Andhra Pradesh will be bifurcated into two – Telangana and Seemandhra. While Hyderabad will continue to be the joint capital city of the two states for the next 10 years, a critical component of the bifurcation is the setting up of a new capital city for Seemandhra. A committee to decide on the location of the capital has been set up by the central government. The committee, headed by former Union urban development secretary K. Sivaramakrishnan, is to submit its recommendations by 31stAugust.
While the high-powered committee is busy in its deliberations, may we offer a recommendation: Make Visakhapatnam the capital city of Seemandhra.
We are aware that there is frenetic lobbying underway to choose one of several locations as the future capital city. Ongole and Guntur-Vijayawada are mentioned as possible locations, but these towns are far behind Visakhapatnam in terms of ready availability of critical infrastructure for setting up a new capital.
There are several advantages to locating the capital in Visakhapatnam: The first is that it has land to build a new secretariat and living quarters for government workers.
Second, the ‘City of Destiny’ has a well-developed transport infrastructure. Its airport now handles several domestic flights a day, and international flights as well. It is well-connected on the Indian Railways’ network however its railway station needs to be expanded.
Third, like Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra, Vizag is home to a major Port that has been augmenting trade for decades. The city is also well-protected with the presence of the Indian Navy’s Eastern Naval Command.
Fourth, Visakhapatnam has a vibrant economy, helped in no small measure by the presence of several public sector companies. The workers in these PSUs are an impetus to the consumer economy in the city.
Fifth, besides the PSUs, Visakhapatnam has world-class educational infrastructure, beginning with the 88-year-old Andhra University and GITAM University.
Sixth, and most important, is the social harmony in Visakhapatnam. Thanks to the university and the naval facilities, Vizag has for long been a cosmopolitan town, with people from different parts of the country living and working peacefully in the port city.
Despite the influx of people in recent years, drawn to Vizag’s educational institutions, the city has maintained its small-town profile, which would transend in to the big league if made the capital city.
The infusion of money, promised by Dr. Manmohan Singh administration at the Centre, to develop a new capital city would probably lead to quick development, so there should be a mechanism put in place by the new government, which will take office in mid-May to ensure orderly development of the entire Seemandhra.
Detractors of Visakhapatnam, and there are many, will argue that as Visakhapatnam is almost at the northern most corner of Seemandhra, it will not be an ideal location for the capital city. They will push for Guntur-Vijayawada or Ongole, basing their pitch on the fact that Ongole has abundant land for the purpose of setting up a new capital. Supporters of Guntur-Vijayawada will argue that Vijayawada is the commercial capital of Seemandhra, so it makes sense for the capital city to be located in that belt. But Ongole has a major problem: the non-availability of water for a new city.
The Guntur-Vijayawada belt has no land, and it makes little sense to chop up a forest area near Guntur for the new capital. With forest resources dwindling at an alarming rate around the country, leading to vicious changes in the climate, it would be better to retain whatever forest cover is there.
So, viewed from any angle, be it land, security and infrastructure, Visakhapatnam is ideally located to be the capital city of Seemandhra. Here’s hoping that the committee will recommend Visakhapatnam.

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