N Chandrababu Naidu must have been bone-weary with the lofty land prices and rapacious urge for rentals by property owners in the capital region of residual Andhra Pradesh. The pleonectic demands of government staff to relocate from Hyderabad and the toil involved in moving the state administration from Hyderabad to Amaravati are haunting the government every minute.
Nearly 20,000 employees of different ranks - amounting to one lakh people in all - need to be moved from Hyderabad.
Much to their chagrin, relocating to the new capital region - it is not just one city as such, but a conglomerate of a few cities, a few towns and some villages - is inevitable for the staff.
The state government has set a 15 June deadline. Accordingly, Chandrababu Naidu laid the foundation for a 'temporary' secretariat complex, which will have a 2,000sq. ft rooftop helipad and a total of six blocks. Four of those blocks will have four lakh square feet of built-up area, while the remaining two will have a total built-up area of one lakh sq. ft.
The smaller blocks will have Chief Minister's office in one and the Assembly in the other. While Larsen & Toubro (L&T) has bagged the contract for four blocks, Shapoorji Pallonji secured the contract for the other two. The total estimated cost for the proposed temporary secretariat is pegged at Rs. 201 crore, which would accommodate offices for 6,700 employees.
The government has agreed to pay Rs 3,350 per sq ft for the bareshell of the structures, i.e. excluding interiors, HVAC (high-voltage air-conditioning) systems, electrification and fittings in wash area, etc.
However, the tales of woe of employees in moving out of Hyderabad are too many.
President of Andhra Pradesh (AP) NGO's Association P Ashok Babu told Firstpost that change of place was the one thing nobody would be ready for so easily. But this is inevitable and it has to happen. Though he is cagey about discussing that most of his peers are demurred to relocate, he says: "Most people, except those who are used to travelling jobs, cannot fall asleep very easily, if there is a change of place. So, it is but natural for the employees also to feel the same."
Without getting lyrical about the exactitude on the completion of the moving of the administration to Amaravathi, a senior IAS officer has, on the condition of anonymity, said that he has six more years of service before superannuation and he does not foresee himself moving to a full-fledged secretariat when the "dream city of Chandrababu Naidu" takes shape, "if at all."
U Murali Krishna, president of AP Secretariat Employees Association, has a different take. Gripped by ennui, most employees are generally reluctant to move their families from Hyderabad. In the first step, he says, a lot of them want transit accommodation, as several issues need to be resolved before the staff move out of Hyderabad lock, stock and barrel.
According to him, the Government of India has to act on the recommendation of the Andhra Pradesh government on the local/non-local issue of their wards. The children of employees studying in Hyderabad become local to this region according to Article 371D of the Constitution of India. This needs to be amended to make these students local to Andhra Pradesh when their parents move out of Telangana. Those employees whose wards are about to complete their studies in two to three years cannot afford to move completely. They need to straddle across the two states. Murali Krishna says that such employees are urging for a five-day week facility.
However, there is a catch here; if at all the government concedes to this demand that envelopes only the staffers moving out of Hyderabad, those who are already working in the new location will surely feel discriminated against. This infelicitous action may kick up a row among the employees and an ominous possibility of polarisation between employees cannot be ruled out. Though Murali Krishna asserts that it can be limited to a certain period until the new capital is complete in all respects, there are quite a few apprehensions.
And, the demand to enhance the House Rent Allowance (HRA) to 30 percent from the current rate of 20 in the new Capital Region — akin to Hyderabad, which has an A1 status — will be a drain on the cash-strapped State exchequer.
Meanwhile, Ashok Babu says that the APNGOs' Association is urging the government to also consider the couples working in Hyderabad, who must be retained in that city until the process of shifting the capital is complete.
K S Jawahar Reddy, principal secretary of Panchayat Raj, who is head of a committee that is mandated to oversee the process of moving the employees, revealed to Firstpost that nearly 20,000 employees will have to be moved to Amaravati. The 2,500-odd secretariat employees, over 10,000 heads of departments and senior officers will be going from Hyderabad.
Aside from these, Reddy says police personnel — some of them are already working in different parts of Andhra Pradesh, though they have their headquarters in Hyderabad — will also have to move.
And, there are about 100 corporations, created under Schedule 9 of the Constitution of India. Some departments have staff of less than 20, while some have more. Over, 2,000 employees of these corporations may have to move to the new capital. However, these institutions are yet to be divided between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
Shifting of police personnel is arguably a challenging task, as it is not like transferring other employees. They need to be provided the basic infrastructure like running grounds, play areas, shooting ranges, fitness equipment, etc. Though some battalion headquarters have a few facilities, it involves more toil, compared to the other departments, he observes.
However, Ashok Babu is sceptical about the division of the Schedule 9 institutions and feels it takes a very long time, and his facial contortion only indicates that this is something that has a remote possibility in the near future. Some of those institutions have been created under the Companies Act, while some are corporations and the nature of their formation has far-reaching consequences on their division, said Babu.
Then comes, the demographics. While there are no proper metrics readily available to group the government staff, who are set to move out of Hyderabad, in terms of their age, at least 60-65 per cent of the staff would be above the age of 50 years, claims Babu. For, there were no recruitments and most of the services were outsourced for several years.
But Murali Krishna says there were recruitments in 2013, 2010, 2008 and 2002 and before. Therefore, the data needs to be collated to establish their age.
But surely, the employees above the age of 50 are ostensibly loath to the very idea of moving out of Hyderabad for a variety of reasons: growing up children, their education, health condition, and above all a general demurral to move out of their comfort zone.
While the government is making arrangements for accommodation to senior officers, the rentals, which cannot be governed by the state beyond a point, are going through the roof. Naidu himself has made an appeal to locals of new capital region to keep the rentals under check and participate in the growth story of the state. But, the stiltedness in the appeal doesn't miss the naked eye of anybody. Can a Chief Minister define what is a "normal rent" that he wants landlords to offer to 15,000-odd government employees?
After all, it was Naidu who talked about the prospect of zooming up of land rental values while making alluring offerings to the farmers with a view to entice them to participate in land pooling in the capital region. His volte-face is naturally triggering polemical reaction from the opposition.
APCC Chief N Raghuveera Reddy, YSR Congress leader Botcha Satyanarayana and former TDP minister Vadde Sobhanadreeswara Rao share a common thought in pooh-poohing the very idea of a temporary secretariat. Instead, Sobhandreeswara Rao says the Government should make use of the Rs 1,850-crore assistance for the capital given by the Centre to build a permanent secretariat, though NGO leader Babu says the new building may temporarily accommodate the secretariat, which normally is a permanent institution. "After all, a king should rule from his kingdom," he says.