State division triggers blackouts in India

Strikes continue in southeastern region for a sixth day in protest of creation of new state of Telangana.

    State division triggers blackouts in India
    Widespread protests under the banner of "united Andhra Pradesh" have embroiled the region in chaos [AFP]

    Millions of people in southeastern India have been facing widespread power blackouts after talks between the government and striking electricity workers failed.

    Wednesday marked the sixth consecutive day in which millions were without electricity as workers at the power plant in Andhra Pradesh protested last week's decision to divide the state in two.

    The resulting division would create the new state of Telangana.

    Thousands of people went on strike over the new state saying it will divide the Telugu-speaking people and lead to cuts in the state budget and create problems with water resources.

    The workers were demanding that the federal government withdraw last week's cabinet decision to carve out the state of Telangana with 10 districts out of Andhra Pradesh's 23 districts.

    Separately, more than 600,000 state government employees opposed to the division and demanding a "united Andhra Pradesh" have been agitating for two months.

    Scores of freight and passenger trains were cancelled. Hospitals and drinking water utilities in the state were operating with generators. Mobile phone services, gas stations, and other businesses were affected by the prolonged power cuts.

    Pros and Cons

    Telangana supporters say their drought-prone northern area 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.

    Those opposed to the new state say Andhra Pradesh would lose the city of Hyderabad, India's sixth largest city and major IT hub. Although the two cities will share Hyderabad as their capital for the next 10 years, the city is located in the future new state.

    The resulting debate has sparked some violent protest as well. The town of Vijayanagaram remains under curfew after opponents of the new state set homes and business on fire. Paramilitary troops patrolled the town when the curfew was lifted for two hours to let people stock up on food and medicines.

    The demand for a separate state of Telangana has erupted sporadically since the 1950s, with hunger strikes and violent protests claiming about 1000 lives over the past decade. Several protesters self-immolated to press for the creation of the state.

    SOURCE: AP


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