Machilipatnam, which was a cosmopolitan town before Independence, is still waiting to register any development post-Independence.
The commencement of the construction of the deep seaport has been delayed for over a decade, while the expansion unit of Bharat Electronics Limited was shifted outside Machilipatnam in 2016.
In recent years, the Gilakaladindi harbour has also been closed down owing to technical reasons, depriving hundreds of coastal communities of a livelihood.
According to the British India Census (1871-72), the population of Masulipatnam was 35,056 in the Madras Presidency while it was 9,336 in Vijayawada. At least 30,000 people died in the 1864 cyclone that hit this coast.
However, the population of the town has not increased in the past decade. A former Krishna District Magistrate observed: “Machilipatnam was the only district headquarters in the country to have witnessed a decrease in the decadal growth of population — from 1,79,353 in 2001 to 1,69,892 in 2011 — a trend that is a bane for any town.”
Lack of employment opportunities, economic activity, and the absence of fishing and maritime trade operations on the Machilipatnam coast are suspected to be the key factors that triggered the migration of locals in search of better opportunities. Of late, the port town has become a favoured destination for retired people.
In the first half of the past decade, the town witnessed protests over the controversial land acquisition, while the latter half was the alleged “betrayal” by the State government in not reviving it into a ‘maritime trade post’ as promised.
Over a decade has gone by since the foundation stone for the construction of a deep seaport was laid. The port project, that was projected as a‘growth engine’, is yet to take off.
“The shifting of the expansion unit of Bharat Electronics Limited from Machilipatnam to Nimmakuru in 2016 and closure of the harbour at Gilakaladindi have dealt a major blow to the development of the port town,” a realtor told The Hindu.
Toll on economy
The closure of the Gilakaladindi harbour, which could anchor 100 boats, has derprived hundreds of locals of employment, apart from having an adverse impact on economic activity. On the administration front, the district officials have mostly abandoned the district headquarters after head offices of the government departments were shifted to Vijayawada and Amaravati.
A Retired Special Deputy Collector and amateur historian Mohammad Silar said: “The cosmopolitan features of this town are only in the pages of history. The present state of affairs is a result of the policies of successive governments.”
Mr. Silar adds: “The textile and handloom industries were the prime attractions for the foreign trade companies in Machilipatnam. Such industries with huge employment opportunities have largely disappeared.”
A government employee serving here said: “Machilipatnam was the prime destination for the Europeans for sea-borne trade. The British even ran a train between Machilipatnam and Vasco in Goa and such transportation facility shows how the port town was considered as strategic for trade and defence”.