With the Andhra Pradesh High Court putting brakes on the
consortium of Singapore companies entrusted to develop the 6.84 square
kilometre start-up area of the state’s new capital coming up in Amaravati on
the banks of the Krishna in Guntur district under the ‘Swiss Challenge’ method,
keeping even the revenue-sharing details secret, Chief Minister Chandrababu
Naidu has turned his attention to 
education and tourism to keep the project afloat. Keeping in mind
Amaravati’s Buddhist past, the Dalai Lama has been invited to hold Kalachakra
initiation with Buddhist monks from 71 countries while private universities
have been invited to set up campuses with the offer of vast areas by the
Capital Region Development Authority at the attractive price of Rs 50 lakh an acre.
Following the withdrawal of Singaporean companies, Japanese business, which
promised huge investment in the sunshine city of Amaravati, also lost interest.
The only visible activity is the construction of temporary secretariat
buildings in Velagapudi mandalam in the capital region, where about 3,000
workers from Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are engaged. The secretariat
started functioning from Velagapudi on 3 October. Even though the region is yet
to be populated, an Amaravati shopping festival has been organised to whip up
enthusiasm. Wanting to make AP top the Happiness Index and in the absence of a
seafront in Amaravati, Naidu is organising a three-day ‘Beach Love Festival’ in
Visakhapatnam in mid-February, coinciding with Valentine’s Day, with Colombian
pop star Shakira in attendance.

Naidu’s dream of replicating Singapore in Amravati having
crashed, he has turned his attention to making the new capital a global
knowledge city. Towards that end, the Telugu Desam Party government of Naidu
passed the Andhra Pradesh Private Universities Act and the foundation stone
ceremony for the first institution under the Act, VIT University, was held last
week with Union Urban Development Minister, Venkaiah Naidu, presiding.  A VVIT University offering similar courses of
study as VIT already exists in Guntur town. 
How the new university will attract students is not clear. Chandrababu
Naidu said VIT, which has its main campus in Tamil Nadu and another in Madhya
Pradesh, will attract students from foreign countries. If Naidu is to be
believed, soon world famous universities like Oxford, Harvard and Stanford
will  open campuses in Amravati. The
Indo-UK Institute of Health is coming up in the city for which 150 acres was
allotted by CRDA. The Kerala god-woman promoted Amrita University has been
allotted 200 acres and the Brahma Kumari Society 100 acres.

Land for the CRDA was contributed by farmers on the promise
of a fully developed housing plot, averaging 2,400 square feet, saying it would
fetch Rs 3 to 5 crore. As the government sells the acquired land in the capital
region to institutions at Rs 50 lakh an acre, the farmers are wondering whether
they have been taken for a ride.

–Editorial