Building a colossal capital city for Andhra Pradesh, India, would destroy its rice bowl

We can’t eat money

A farmer who sold his land declares innocently, “My one acre land which was 10 lakhs [$15,135 US] previously is worth a crore [$151,356 US) . . .”

We can’t eat money, and it’s an undeniable truth. The proposed and acquired area for building the capital city for the state of Andhra Pradesh, southern India, namely, Amaravati, happens to be the rice bowl of the state itself with the most fertile and productive land on the premises of river Krishna. This too is a fact undeniable. If, as it is inevitable, the capital comes up by 2018 according to the master plan, this very area would become a corporate begging bowl.

The present state government under the chief ministership of Chandra Babu Naidu has acquired more than 33,000 acres of fertile land for building the capital, according to a master plan devised by consultants from Singapore—imitation is probably the most common virtue in colonial nations after hypocrisy. To turn a fertile land into a metropolitan city is a sin. Mere common sense can endorse the gigantic and incurable loss incurred to the agrarian future of the state and India as a result. But on the other hand, the media is used to project the undertaking in a pompous light to shroud the conscience of innocent masses.

If the people allow themselves to be deceived in broad daylight, that is only because of their lack of rationale and, on a higher plane, lack of a progressive public consciousness. I can’t agree more with my friend who mentioned to me not long ago, “I wonder how the whole state itself has become a stereotype.” And least to mention the caste politics that heavily dominates the voting tendencies of these people. Their lack of rationale comes from the extremely obsessive faith in God and the evil spirits equally alike.

Recently, a black magician beheaded a 5-year-old boy as a sacrifice to a deity, in a village in Nellore district. During the usual water supply, women in my village fear one particular woman, allowing her to take as many pots of water when it is not even her turn because they fear that she has associations with black magicians. In more than one way, we are still 18th century England. With black magic on one side and the ritualistic, obsessive and irrational devotion towards God on the other, the people of Andhra Pradesh have saturated their minds and hence are incapable of realizing the criminal waste of their own resources by politicians who are only interested in filling their own corpulent bellies.

Skepticism, however much emphasized by rationale, cannot beat faith in God. It is precisely for this reason Immanuel Kant prescribes balance between rationale and faith as the order of the human mind for people to achieve enlightenment through scientific progress. Therefore, people should develop emotional bonding with God through spirituality rather than pedantry faith through irrational rituals.

I don’t think this much of fuss and pomp is necessary to build a capital city only to attract international attention and appear in record books. Yes, to beat the records is another obsession here—recently a movie was released with the biggest movie poster in the world and was registered in the Guinness book of world records, of what productive use is it?

Movies here not meant to be art, they are entertainment but still those who make them conceive them as products of creative and intellectual substance gearing societal progress. They are nothing but rubbish and imitation with exception of a few. The recently released Baahubali is more of a videogame than a movie and most of the scenes were picked from several Hollywood movies, for instance, the avalanche scene was copied from Triple X (2002), a Hollywood action movie. The same director who copy pasted the 1923 Hollywood movie, ‘Our Hospitality’ into ‘Maryada Ramanna’ (2010) is worshipped as a genius here. Movies here are meant to evoke emotional intelligence in people, but only inside the movie theater, not a step outside. They are claimed to classify into versatile genres but are euphemized molestations of heroines none of whom belong to the native state for the reason that we are obsessed with the whiteness of skin and voluptuous and otherwise structures which keep transforming with trends more or less competing with Bollywood.

The native women of this state are incorporated into the television serials which run over 1,500 episodes of crying. Besides, most of them are meant to support the superficial faiths, sentiments and superstitions. These serials are miniaturized versions of the movies with almost same names to evoke popular appeal. While some other directors who appear as bearded intellectuals, for example Trivikram Srinivas (we will take one small instance of how he copied ‘It Happened One Night’ (1934) and ‘Roman Holiday’ (1953) into one single movie, Malleswari (2002)), are only for the sake of appearance who keep repeating their crap again and again and occasionally borrow from Hollywood. Likewise, with meticulous search, each of their movies here can be traced to its original in another language in another part of the globe and in another time all together. Ironically, I must quote from the 1952 comedy musical, ‘Singing in the Rain,’ “you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all.” They are clever in borrowing scripts from old Hollywood films lest they might be caught. Tollywood, as it has been rightly named thus, deserves a larger discussion than this but it is doubtful whether it actually does.

Just because people here are unintelligent, crooks of filmmakers and politicians have been running the show, deceiving them of land on one hand and confiscating their money through entertainment on the other.

India is a resourceful nation even now despite the looting of the British and other conquests in its historical past and this is precisely what the people and the politicians ruling them should realize. We don’t have to beg somebody for resources, plans and other such stupidity. Nor do we need to boast that “today, people in Singapore are drinking milk from Gujarat” as the prime minister did in his lecture at Lady Sriram College before being elected in 2014. It doesn’t imply that there shouldn’t be cooperation and exchange of trade between nations. But who cares if Singapore is drinking Gujarat’s milk when our own people are starving?

My good friend’s father is a rice merchant. He is planning to obtain international trading license to send Basmati rice to America. In return, they’ll send us leg pieces of poultry that had been killed 6 months ago from the date of consumption here in fried chicken restaurants of innumerable names and varieties. Americans don’t eat leg pieces because they know that it is where the chemicals used on poultry settle down, in legs.

Urbanization is not economical development and building a huge city is not an achievement, politically it may be. But being resourceful and self-sufficient is. My primary school teacher always reminded us, “Don’t bend your hand to take, bend it to give” for I am speaking of resourcefulness as a political and diplomatic ideal. People should begin to think at least, only then can their public consciousness avert this gross deceit by their own leaders.

The chief minister, though it is obvious, says, “The capital is not just for administrative purposes, it should be dynamic and also have economic activity.” If it is more than administrative, it must be for the ministers to live in punctilious luxury and security while their people will have been impoverished. There will be flyovers, metro-rails, ring-roads, record breaking towers, historical monuments and a filmy space for Tollywood. The ‘economic and dynamic’ reference is all about corporatization, transportation and tourism. It seems the chief minister is creating a ‘Singapore in India.’ The effect of this undertaking doesn’t show immediately, it would take time and is serious for our agrarian future.

The past, present and the future of human civilization is agrarian, agrarian and agrarian. It ought to be, at least, to some extent. Corporatization is also not development, at least industrialization is to an extent.

If you’re serious about having to build a new capital, why not build it in Rayalaseema, which has thousands of acres of dry and idle land? You can get water anyhow for the budget you have at your disposal. Alternately, it is insensible to spend millions in building Amaravati (ironically it translates to ‘city of Gods,’ then what is in it for people?). It seems the name was chosen befitting vasthu and other aspects which again accounts for the institutionalization of superstitious beliefs in people. Vijaywada could be turned into the capital for it is already a city and right in the center of the state with excellent urban amenities and transportation if not in Rayalaseema which is farther away in the South.

As a new perspective to this argument about people being unintelligent, foolish, stupid and as a consequence, ‘weak,’ I’d quote Marlon Brando (as Emiliano Zapata) from the pre-climax scene of Viva Zapata (1952), “A strong man makes a weak people. Strong people don’t need a strong man.” And a little earlier in the conversation, he answers his fellowman, “That’s how things really change, slowly through people. They don’t need me anymore.”

“They have to be led”

“Yes, but by each other.”

Narain Rao is a poet who lives in Hyderabad, India.

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