Indian farmers to learn about urban living in Singapore

It is part of plan to rehabilitate 26,000 hit by building of new Andhra Pradesh state capital

More than 100 farmers who gave up their land for the building of the proposed city of Amaravati, the new capital for the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, will soon be visiting Singapore as part of efforts to help them transition from rural to urban living.

The trip is part of the state government's plan to rehabilitate 26,000 farmers affected by the huge building programme.

Amaravati is being built from scratch to replace Hyderabad, which Andhra Pradesh lost to Telangana, a new state carved out from its territory in June 2014.

The new capital region encompasses 7,420 sq km - including large tracts of agricultural land - on the banks of the Krishna River between the cities of Vijayawada and Guntur. It is expected to have lots of green spaces along with high-rise commercial and residential buildings and low-rise government offices. Ten million are expected to be living in the new capital by 2050.

Singapore has been actively involved in the development of Amaravati since its inception, with Surbana Jurong drawing up the city's masterplan in 2015..

In May, the consortium of Ascendas-Singbridge and Sembcorp Development was chosen to work with Andhra Pradesh's Amaravati Development Corporation to develop the city's 6.84 sq km commercial core, which includes office buildings and residential areas.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, who converted Hyderabad into an information technology hub, has repeatedly expressed his intention of replicating a Singapore in India. He wants the affected farmers to visit the Republic to see first-hand how well it has modernised.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, who converted Hyderabad into an IT hub, has repeatedly expressed his intention of replicating a Singapore in India. He wants the affected farmers to visit the Republic to see first-hand how well it has modernised.

A spokesman for Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry has said it was looking forward to hosting the landowners. "We will be taking them to see different parts of Singapore, with specific emphasis on showcasing how Singapore has preserved and maintained heritage buildings, green spaces and waterways despite rapid urbanisation," the spokesman told The Straits Times.

"They will also get to understand how we designed and built integrated townships, which include residential, commercial and community spaces, and how we manage waste to enjoy a clean and green city. We are doing our best to ensure that the landowners find the trip meaningful and enjoyable."

The farmers will be sent to Singapore in three batches starting next Monday. All of them are paying their own airfares.

One of them, Mr Jonnalagadda Vinay Chowdary, 41, whose family has been growing cotton and other crops, said there was a lot of confusion among farmers about the future.

"I was thinking that when we get to Singapore, they can educate us on what type of buildings farmers can construct on the land we get in the capital city. Most farmers don't know where to invest," he said. "It is a huge adjustment for my family. A lot of changes are taking place."

Mr Puvvadu Ganesh Babu, 43, who has been a farmer all his life, is hoping Singapore will have some answers for him. "I want to start a hotel business and I want to get an idea in Singapore of how I can do it," said Mr Babu, who gave up 2.8ha of land to the state.

Many of the farmers have received compensation for their loss, as well as land in the new capital city.

"These farmers are neo-rich because of the escalation in land prices. But they have lost their occupation as there is no scope for farming in the capital city. They will have to be developed as entrepreneurs," said Mr S. Sreenivasa Jeevan, joint director of communications at the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority.

All government and state assembly buildings have already been moved to temporary quarters in Amaravati, and Mr Naidu is himself living in the area even though work has yet to start on the huge project.

But many critics remain unconvinced about the plans to rehabilitate the farmers, saying there is little guarantee that those who lost their land would be able to make the transition. "Most of these farmers are in the middle-aged group with very little literacy... What to do about the farmers and whether they can adjust will be one of the issues facing Amaravati," said Federation of Farmers' Associations president P. Chengal Reddy.


Correction note: Amaravati's masterplan was drawn up by Surbana Jurong, not Ascendas-Singbridge. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2017, with the headline 'Indian farmers to learn about urban living in Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe