Power cuts as Indian protesters decry dividing state

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 October, 2013, 4:30am


Millions of people were without power in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh yesterday as electricity workers closed power plants to protest against a decision to divide the state in two.

The federal government has decided to carve out a new state of Telangana from 10 districts of Andhra Pradesh.

Cell phone services were down across much of the state, while more than 50 trains were cancelled. Hospital and emergency services were forced to run on generators.

The state has been rocked by protests since Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's Congress party government last week said it was going ahead with the plan. Hundreds of thousands of government workers opposed to the division are on strike.

Opponents are mostly from what would be the left-over part of Andhra Pradesh. They fear most tax revenue from the new state would go to Telangana as much of the industry in the state is around the city of Hyderabad, India's sixth-largest and a major IT hub, which would be in the new state. They are also worried about potential disputes over the sharing of river water and budget allocation.

Chief Minister Kiran Reddy has urged Singh to hold talks to resolve the crisis.

The split - if it happens - is still a way off. The proposal must be approved by the Andhra Pradesh state assembly and passed by both houses of Parliament.

Police yesterday clamped a 24-hour curfew on the town of Vijayanagaram 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 tyres on the road.

Police have orders to shoot anyone who defies the curfew, which authorities planned to lift for a couple hours so residents could stock up on essentials.

On Monday, four ministers from Andhra Pradesh in Singh's cabinet offered their resignation to underscore their opposition to the division of the state. Singh has not accepted them.