RSTV: THE BIG PICTURE- MULTIPLE STATE CAPITALS & GOVERNANCE
The Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly passed the AP Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Bill, 2020 that intended to give shape to state government’s plan of having three capitals — executive capital in Visakhapatnam, legislative in Amaravati and judicial in Kurnool. The amendments to the Bill proposed by the Opposition Telugu Desam Party were rejected by the House. The cabinet chaired by Reddy approved the proposal on three capital cities aimed at “decentralised and inclusive development of all regions of the state”. It also approved repealing the Capital Region Development Authority Act and establishes the Amaravati Metropolitan Development Authority. The ruling YSR Congress Party has also reportedly decided to scrap the state’s Upper House as it is miffed with the Legislative Council stalling bills
A government consists of 3 organs. Here, the government proposes to establish these institutions for these 3 organs.
- Judiciary: a high court in Kurnool.
- Executive: Secretariat in Vishakapatnam.
- Legislature: legislative assembly and council in the present capital region Amaravati.
Rationale behind 3 capitals:
- The government says it is against building one mega capital while neglecting other parts of the state. Three capitals ensure equal development of different regions of the state.
- Decentralisation has been the central theme in recommendations of all major committees that were set up to suggest a suitable location for the capital of Andhra Pradesh.
- The multiple capital idea is not new, it has been a prevailing practice in countries like South Africa, Brazil, Australia and Bolivia and even in some states in India like
Kerala: where high court is in Kochi and the legislature and Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram. And in Uttarakhand and Lucknow.
- The other argument in favor is it sits in line with various reports like- Sribagh pact, which happened between Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra in 1937, where it was decided that if high court is in coastal Andhra, capital should be in Rayalaseema. but after the formation of Andhra Pradesh, it was left out and Hyderabad became the capital. And even the Srikrishna committee, which was set up to decide the capital region for AP recommended having high court and other institutions in different regions.
- And a secretariat in Vizag can help in the development of regions like Vizianagaram and Srikakulam, which consists of most of the tribal and rural areas and are the most backward regions of the state. This may bring health and educational access to the region and may prevent uddanam like incidents, where several people are suffering from chronic kidney disease.
- Kurnool having a high court is like doing Justice to the district or even entire Rayalaseema, as it is the most backward region when compared with coastal Andhra and Telangana with Hyderabad at the time of bifurcation.
Arguments against 3 states:
- In a parliamentary system of government, executive and legislature are 2 sides of a coin.
- One should realize that these 3 organs, most of the time have to work in resonance as most of their work is interlinked.
- For example, a policy or a bill is made by the cabinet in Secretariat in Vizag and the bill has to be passed in the legislature in Amaravati and if any conflict arises it has to be given judgment in the high court situated in Kurnool. It will result in the traveling cost not only for the public authorities but also for a common person, for example, a person in Kurnool has to travel about 700 km to get work done in Secretariat in Vizag. So a single capital not only reduces the cost but also time is taken to get the work done.
- Coordinating between seats of legislature and executive in separate cities will be easier said than done, and with the government offering no specifics of a plan, officers and common people alike fear a logistics nightmare.
- The proposal to have the legislature and executive at different places will lead to an unnecessary drain of resources for the state given that the ministers who perform both executive, as well as, legislative functions will need to constantly move between the two capitals at the expense of the state resources.
- Another counter-argument is strengthening the local bodies, both in urban and rural areas. If the government’s goal is to decentralize development, the best way possible is the financial strengthening of the local bodies, granting more money to execute their functions in the 11 th and 12 th schedule of the Indian constitution. This not only results in the development of even remote areas but also improve governance, as it increases the participation of common people in the development process.
- People mostly farmers of 29 villages, who gave farmland in and around previously selected Amaravati region, to the previous government in land pooling, where they are expecting to get in return land and commercial building. Now they feel cheated after backing out of the previously proposed single capital.
- This may result in people from other regions being skeptical ( doubt ) of the government’s Promises in the future, Making it very difficult in the land acquisition or pooling for any development process.
Pro’s of having legislative councils:
- It widens the space for representative democracy.
- The Upper house act as a check on hasty actions by Legislative Assembly.
- They provide a forum for academicians and intellectuals to contribute to the legislative process.
- Academicians and intellectuals may not be suitable for the nature of electoral politics in Legislative Assembly.
- It provides a mechanism for a more serious appraisal of legislation.
- It would allow for more debate and sharing of work between the Houses.
- To act as a check on hasty actions by the popularly elected House.
- To ensure that individuals who might not be cut out for the rough-and-tumble of direct elections too are able to contribute to the legislative process.
- Having a second chamber would allow for more debate and sharing of work between the Houses.
Con’s for creation of legislative councils:
- Rather than fulfilling the lofty objective of getting intellectuals into the legislature, the forum is likely to be used to accommodate party functionaries who fail to get elected.
- It is also an unnecessary drain on the exchequer.
- Unlike Rajya Sabha which has substantial powers to shape non-financial legislation, Legislative Councils lack the constitutional mandate to do so. Legislative Assemblies have the power to override suggestions/amendments made to a legislation by the Council.
- While Rajya Sabha MPs can vote in the election of the President and Vice-President, members of Legislative Councils can’t. MLCs also can’t vote in the elections of Rajya Sabha members.
- As regards Money bills, only fourteen days’ delay can be caused by the Council, which is more or less a formality rather than a barrier in the way of Money Bill passed by the Assembly.
- Legislative Councils are subject to varied discussions around their creation, revival and abolishment.
- If there was any real benefit in having a Legislative Council, all States in the country would have a second chamber.
- Having only seven such Councils suggests the lack of any real advantage, apart from the absence of a broad political consensus on the issue.