As the Indian government has finally decided to form the new state of Telangana with Hyderabad as its capital, the Seemandhra region now has the task of developing its own capital city.
Hyderabad will remain as the joint capital for 10 years for Telangana and Seemandhra. Within those 10 years, Seemandhra will have to develop its own capital. There are four to six big cities in Seemandhra, one of which is to be developed as the new capital. The six cities are: Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Ongole, Tirupati, Kurnool and Anantapur.
After Hyderabad, which is the current capital of the united Andhra Pradesh, Visakhapatnam (Vizag) is the second largest city in the region. Though there are so many positive elements for Vizag to be made the new capital of the bifurcated AP, it has some drawbacks as well. Like, it is situated far away, on the coast of Bay of Bengal, to Rayalaseema districts like Anantapur and Chittoor. People from the drought-hit Rayalaseema districts will have to travel more than 1,000kms to reach Vizag.
On the other hand, Vizag has modern urban infrastructure like an international airport, good rail connectivity, a fledgling IT industry and four universities. There is plenty of land available beyond the Indira Gandhi Zoological Park of the port city. Most of the land is government-owned, and so there is no need to acquire it to develop the new capital. The NH 5 provides ample access to that side too. The Vizag airport can also be expanded. Like Hyderabad, Vizag's Eastern Naval Command, steel plant and Vizag Port brings a cosmopolitan culture to the city.
Meanwhile, on the flipside, analysts point out that the city could be developed only along the coast. In addition to this, the forests and hills around the city will not allow further expansion. Also, the fertile land around Visakhapatnam is quite expensive. There has been a talk about Vizag becoming the new capital in recent times, and the land prices skyrocketed all of a sudden.
Analysts also point out that Rayalaseema is drought-hit and backward when compared to the coastal Andhra region, which has fertile irrigated land due to the Godavari and Krishna rivers. Hence one could see a reason to develop a new capital in Rayalaseema.
Also, a city like Tirupati, the temple town of Lord Venkateswara, is being favoured by some as the new capital of Seemandhra. Those favouring Tirupati advocate that its proximity to Chennai and other nearby districts should be taken into account and be selected as the new capital.
After Tirupati, Anantapur and Kurnool are the other big cities in the Rayalaseema. Kurnool was the first capital of Andhra, while Anantpur is well connected to India's IT city Bangalore.
Some advocate that Vijayawada is another option for the new capital of Seemandhra as it is in the middle of the coastal Andhra. It is the third largest city in AP after Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam and an educational and cultural hub. There is also a demand to build the new capital between Vijayawada and Guntur. But non-availability of government land and skyrocketing prices of private lands are major drawbacks here.
With its central location in the bifurcated AP, Ongole enjoys the advantage of vast stretches of government-owned land. It is the headquarters of Prakasam district. Ongole is also not very far away to Rayalaseema like Vizag. Ongole is 260 km and 370 km from Kurnool and Anantapur, respectively in the Rayalaseema region. But it is quite far from important northern districts of Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam. Besides, its infrastructure is not so developed, and land under cultivation around it may not be easy to acquire.
Analysts suggest that the Union government should opt for a right place for the new capital of Seemandhra by consulting the people of the region, especially civil society organisations and elected representatives.