Protesters decry dividing south Indian state

  • Article by: OMER FAROOQ
  • Associated Press
  • October 8, 2013 - 6:00 AM

HYDERABAD, India — Widespread power outages paralyzed life across the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh on Tuesday as electricity workers closed down power plants to protest a decision to divide the state in two.

Cellular phone service was down across much of the state, while more than 50 trains were canceled. Hospital and emergency services were running on generators.

The state has been rocked by violent protests after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Congress party government announced last week its decision to go ahead with a plan to carve out a new state of Telangana from 10 districts of Andhra Pradesh.

Opponents are mostly from what would be the left-over part of Andhra Pradesh. They fear that tax revenues from the new state would go mostly to Telangana as much of the industry in the state is located around the city of Hyderabad, a major IT hub, which would be in the future new state.

They are also worried about potential disputes over the sharing of river water and budget allocation.

Hundreds of thousands of government employees opposed to the division are on strike. Ashok Babu, leader of one the government employee associations said the strike would continue till the government rolled back its decision on the division of Andhra Pradesh.

Supporters of the plan say the drought-prone northern area that is to become Telangana is underdeveloped and its residents feel discriminated against in the allocation of state funds, water and jobs. Achieving statehood will allow the future state, with 35 million people, to get the resources it needs to develop, they say.

Chief Minister Kiran Reddy, Andhra Pradesh's top elected official, has urged Singh to scrap the decision to divide the state and hold talks to resolve the crisis. A former chief minister of the state, Chandrababu Naidu, began a protest fast against the division on Monday.

Critics of the government's decision say acceding to the demand for Telangana would spur other demands for new states.

The proposed split is still a ways off. It must be approved by the Andhra Pradesh state assembly and passed by both houses of Parliament before it can come into existence.

On Tuesday, police clamped an indefinite curfew on the town of Vijayanagaram indefinitely after opponents of the new state attacked the homes and businesses of Congress party leaders. Protesters blocked traffic on the main highway by placing burning tires on the road.

Four ministers from Andhra Pradesh in Singh's Cabinet offered their resignations Monday to the prime minister to underscore their opposition to the division of the state, but Singh did not accept them.

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