(Kuradi Chandrasekhara Kalkura)
On March 25, 1953, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru declared that the Andhra State would come into existence on 1st October 1953.
Following Nehru’s declaration, which was the consequence of self-immolation by veteran freedom fighter Potti Sriramulu, the Speaker of Madras Assembly asked Telugu legislators to decide upon the location of India’s first linguistic state.
Accordingly, the meeting of all the Andhra Legislators was convened at Prakasam’s house in Madras. There were rival claims, with documentary evidence; Vijayawada –Guntur, communists; Tirupati, Gouthu Lacchanna; Visakhapatnam, Tenneti Visvanathan: Kadapah, Koti Reddy. The leaders of Rayalaseema ‘took a firm stand on Sri Bagh Pact of 1938’.
This accord envisages that the capital should be in the Rayalaseema districts since the Andhra University was already located in the coastal dist, Visakhapatnam.
“They even held out a threat that they would rather remain in the Madras Province if their demand was not conceded than join the new Province. The readers may be aware that the Rayalaseema people previously preferred to remain under the jurisdictional control of the Madras University, in preference to that of the AU.”
Tempers were running high and there were no signs of unanimity. Somebody whispered that the decision should be left to the discretion of Prakasam himself. As the suggestion was accepted, Prakasam asked Gouthu Lacchanna to keep the paper and pencil ready to record the decision. Under profound silence Prakasam dramatically shouted ‘Write down, it is KURNOOL.”
Prakasam explained that Kurnool being the most backward dist. in the country, setting up the Capital there would be a shot in the arm for its development.
Outsiders dubbed it as a heaven for pigs, donkeys, dust and mosquito, etc. No building worth a Capital was available. Prakasam declared: “My intention is to clean Kurnool, remove all obstacles and hold the Assembly session in the Municipal High School maidan and run the Secretariat in the Tents.”
Prakasam’s admirers in Vijayawada severely cautioned him about the ‘mounting anger of the people’. There was a threat to physically harm him and his bronze statue installed there was broken. Prakasam responded with a characteristic rejoinder: “I never implored them to put up a statue to perpetuate my memory and as such the people who erected the statue could always exercise their right to break it.” Prakasam’s stolid silence and fearless disregard of consequences reduced the anger of the people of the Bezwada in course of time.
Here started the real trouble of establishing a new Capital in a small town, Kurnool, with a population 50,000 and with minimum infrastructure available.
C. Narasimham, a senior IAS Officer was appointed as Special Officer @ Special Collector to oversee the arrangements for the Capital and inauguration of the new State on 1st Oct.1953.
Narasimham’s readable Autobiography, ME AND MY TIMES is a mine of information about the preparation of the Capital in Kurnool and the functioning of the government here.
Government and private Buildings were acquired. Palacial PWD Office cum Bungalow was selected as Raj Bhavan; the District court was chosen the Assembly. Ministers including the C.M. were accommodated in the best available private and Govt houses.
Basic Training School hostel was converted into the Legislators’ Hostel. Collector’s Office was selected the Secretariat, and Military Tents were laid for extra accommodation.
Buildings were constructed in the spacious compound within a year. The Victorian police office and the Dist Board buildings housed the Inspector General of Police Office and the Revenue Board. Collectorate, Dist Police Office, and the Dist Board offices were shifted to Nandyal and Banaganapalle.
Land acquisition for the construction of the houses for the staff was done within an hour and without a murmur; no browbeating, no compulsion; no discrimination no ill-will and bias; only volunteers, goodwill and compassion were invoked.
Rs.150 per acre of standing crops and the compensation fixed by the Dy collector was agreed upon. “They were happy that their town was becoming the First Capital of the First Linguistic State in Independent India.”
As usual, there was an objection from the Astrologers as Oct 1, 1953, the date fixed for the inauguration of the State was inauspicious to Prakasam. “I will fix a date that is agreeable for all the astrologers and they must guarantee me that I would continue to be the C.M till my last breath” these comments of Prakasam silenced all the astrologers. A crowd of about 3,00,000 witnessed Prime Minister Nehru inaugurating the state on Oct1, 1953. When there were no hotels, guest houses and travelers’ bungalows worth their names, VVIPs were treated to their utmost satisfaction.
Vavilala Gopalakrishnaiah (17, Sept. 1906 – 29th April 2003) the veteran freedom fighter and an active opposition legislator held the view: “Prakasam was our best Chef Minster and Kurnool was the best Capital and it was the Golden era of Telugu Administration in modern times.”
From Madras we traveled to Kurnool, proceded to Hyderabad and now will we settle at Amaravati?
Still, there are some us carrying the memories of all the four capitals namely Madras, Kurnool, Hyderabad, and Amaravati. Selection of Amaravati, with utter disregard to the Sivaramakrishnan Committee Report and the reasonable objections and ground realities, is quite contrary to the concept adopted by Andhra Kesari.
If the decision of the previous Chandrababu’s government to select Amaravati was right, at least the people of Guntur and Krishna would have voted for him! The whole AP is watching with anxiety how the present young Chief Minister would clear the mess!