By Dr Aparaajita Pandey
The state of Andhra Pradesh is currently suffering from the ailment of a paucity of resources due to mismanagement and the administration has done precious little to cure it. The recent fiscal crisis in Sri Lanka should have been a wakeup call for some Indian states and Andhra Pradesh tops that list. The precarious balance of earnings and social spending must be maintained by the administration of a state to ensure holistic growth.
In cases where the social spending exceeds the resources and income, and maladministration is added to the mix; dire consequences often follow, and Venezuela should be taken as a prime example of such a situation. In case there is little social spending, the socio-economic dynamics of the state are forced to become decrepit as wage and income inequality becomes unbearable.
Andhra Pradesh is currently suffering from such income inequality, the state’s economic and social indicators are abysmal, it’s standing on the precipice of an energy crisis and to add to all this, the administration of the state has been divided into three capitals.
The saga of finding a suitable capital for the state is quite akin to a Greek tragedy. It is unnecessarily long, immensely expensive, calamitous for the state and all those involved.
The original vision for the capital of Andhra Pradesh was given by former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu. It was a vision of a futuristic green city modeled after Singapore – plush with navigable inland canals which was going to be one of the greenest capitals in the world and was supposed to be built with the help of experts from Singapore.
If one were to take a cursory look at the urban planning in Singapore, it would become evident that they have used their model of urban planning as a weapon to combat the issues of paucity of water, ethnic divisions in their diverse population, ease of transport, as well as a safety measure against possible fire hazards after the devastating Bukit Ho Swee fire incident.
The potential capital of Andhra Pradesh at Amravati had the potential to imbibe the potential and possibility of growth that a capital of developing state must exude. It is also prudent to highlight that Singapore is arguably one of the best places to live.
It has been consistently ranked quite high on global indices like the HDI, Corruption Index – where it stood at rank 4 in 2021, with unemployment at just 3.6% , the state is ranked no. 2 for the ease of doing business, and it has also been ranked no. 3 on the safe cities index as well. All of these indices are indicators of conditions that make a place livable and also make it possible for the residents to progress and thrive.
However, with a change in the political regime, this model and the city of Amravati as the sole capital fell out of favour. The current regime, after a delay of approximately half a decade, adopted the three-capital model of South Africa and decided to replicate the same in Andhra Pradesh.
South Africa has a long history of colonisation by the British and the Dutch, as well as apartheid, and the violence that has ensued to institutional racism. The capital cities of South Africa are Pretoria as the administrative capital, Cape Town as the legislative capital, and Bloemfontein as the judicial capital.
While South Africa had their rationale behind such a decision, it was not without opposition and ended in the country incurring huge expenditure for the infrastructure. While some argue that this was done for the ease of administration in the nation; such a claim is not supported by any quantifiable evidence.
Andhra Pradesh has decided to adopt the South African model with Amravati, Kurnool, and Visakhapatnam as the three capital cities of the state. While multiple capitals are not unheard of, the rationale behind it remains unclear. On the surface it has been said that this would lead to decentralisation of administration which in turn would end in the better governance of the state.
On the contrary this would lead to greater bureaucratic troubles and delays as frequent consultations would be difficult to say the lease. In addition to this the cost of travel and transport would be an added burden for the taxpayer. This is not to mention the additional expenditure of establishing three different cities as capitals.
Any social spending that the current government is proud of would effectively be nullified by the forced extravagance of three capitals. Objectively, South Africa has major problems of crime and corruption that have become systemic in nature. It ranks 109 on the HDI, and is ranked 85 on the Corruption Index, its 84 on the ease of doing business, it is also quite dismally ranked 47 on the Safe Cities Index.
It is important to note that Andhra Pradesh already has a problem of rampant corruption and in the past year, the state saw a slew of progressively gruesome crimes against women which is also quite akin to South Africa. Owing to these similarities, it would be better if Andhra Pradesh found better role models.
One could also look at the cities that both the capital models take after. Singapore is objectively a better city to live in than South Africa. In terms of corruption, crime, income inequality, ease of accommodation, access to resources, public transport, education, and health. On every possible criterion to judge a state or city, Singapore outdoes South Africa. While there are valuable lessons in both models, it should be a decision that bases itself on the best interests of the citizens and not political showmanship.
(Author is an independent political strategist with a PhD in International Relations)
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