Hours after holding his first meeting at Praja Vedika or people’s grievance cell, built by the previous TDP regime on the banks of the Krishna river in Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy announced on Monday that the sprawling complex will be demolished on Wednesday.
The complex has been built at Undavalli village, adjoining the official residence of former CM N Chandrababu Naidu. Calling it a “shameful symbol” of how the TDP government bypassed laws and objections and illegally built it, Jagan said Praja Vedika will be the first illegal building to be demolished, and made it clear that no illegal buildings should be constructed on the river bank.
TDP leaders have, however, said the CM should not take decisions in haste.
After meeting IAS officers in the building, Jagan said: “I deliberately decided to hold the District Collectors’ and IAS officers meeting here today in this illegal building. The CM, Cabinet and IAS officers are sitting in a building that is not valid. I want to emphasise that my government will not tolerate or encourage such blatant violation of laws. After this two-day meeting, this building will be demolished.”
This does not bode well for Naidu, who may even be asked to leave his official residence, which is adjacent to Praja Vedika. Naidu got it built to hold party meetings, meet people, organise grievance sabhas, and hold official meetings. After he demitted office, he requested Jagan to allow him to use the Praja Vedika by considering it an extension of his official residence.
While the state government is yet to reply to his request, it decided to take over Praja Vedika to hold the Collectors’ conference, even as Naidu is abroad.
Jagan said construction along the river bank could be allowed 22.6 m above the flood level but Praja Vedika was built at 19.5 m. Despite objections raised by the executive engineer (Vijayawada), former Municipal Administration and Urban Development Minister P Narayana ordered it to be built, said the Chief Minister.
The TDP government also overruled river conservation laws and objections by Lokayukta and went ahead with the building. “There were irregularities in the construction. Short tenders with one week notice were called. Nagarjuna Construction Company was given the contract of Rs 5 crore after disqualifying another company. The construction cost was later revised to Rs 8.9 crore,’’ said an official.
In June 2015, after shifting from Hyderabad to Vijayawada, Naidu decided to use the guesthouse of Lingamaneni Group, an infrastructure company whose owners are close to him, as his official residence. The guesthouse owners were served a notice by the Guntur District administration in February 2015 that it was illegal and constructed on encroached land. Despite this, Naidu moved into the bungalow.
“Naidu should vacate the official residence gracefully instead of being evicted. Also, Praja Vedika is not Naidu’s personal property. It belongs to the government and we have every right to take over it,’’ said Botsa Satyanarayana, Minister of Urban Development and Municipal Administration.
TDP leaders protested the move, alleging political vendetta. “The government has taken over Praja Vedika without informing Naidu, who is abroad. They should have at least replied to his letter. This reeks of political vendetta,’’ said TDP state president Kala Venkat Rao.
TDP leaders suggested that the government should think carefully before ordering demolitions. “Praja Vedika was built at a cost of nearly Rs 10 crore. Why waste it? It can be used by the government to host official meetings because we do not have such a big space anywhere in Amaravati,’’ said Rao.