As large areas of coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions reeled under power outages and shortage of essential goods on the fourth day of the shutdown on Monday, Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy called the various associations and employees unions of Seemandhra which are on an indefinite strike for talks on October 9.
With over 30,000 electricity employees on strike, power generation and supply has taken a big hit and hundreds of villages in the coastal districts have received no electricity since Sunday afternoon. More areas of Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram, Srikakulam, Krishna (East) and West Godavari plunged into darkness on Monday. Officials said power fluctuations caused outages which could not be repaired as the employees are on strike.
Raising the banner of revolt against his party, Reddy said, “I have told the Congress several times, in no uncertain terms, that it is a big mistake to divide the state. I think it is a very harsh decision and not at all in the interest of the state. You cannot solve a problem by creating a bigger problem.”
He said, “I cannot take a blanket order from my party. I am concerned about the crores of Seemandhra people whose concerns have not been taken care of. I won’t like to be the last Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh.”
In Delhi, four Congress union ministers who resigned last week — M M Pallam Raju, D Purandeshwari, Kotla Surya Prakash Reddy and K Chiranjeevi — met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and urged him to accept their resignations. They have decided not to attend office. Two other ministers — K S Rao and Killi Kripa Rani — also accompanied them, but it was not clear whether they pressed for their resignations to be accepted.
While Y S Jaganmohan Reddy’s indefinite hunger strike entered the third day, TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu began his hunger strike in New Delhi on Monday afternoon.
In coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions, fuel stations ran out petrol and diesel as the highways continued to remain blocked, disrupting movement of oil tankers. In Kurnool and Vijayawada, people fought over milk packets and vegetables as supplies were hit due to the transport strike, and ATMs ran out of cash as banks and commercial establishments remained closed.
Curfew continued for the third day in Vizianagaram town, where the anti-bifurcation protests turned violent on Sunday with protesters targeting properties owned by Transport Minister and PCC chief Botsa Satyanarayana and his family members. Several persons who led the attacks were taken into custody.
As protests continued unabated across the 13 districts of coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema on Monday, police lobbed teargas shells to disperse mobs indulging in stone-pelting and arson at a few places. Vizag Range DIG P Umapathi said the situation was better than Sunday but the curfew would remain.
Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy called the protesting employees unions for talks on Wednesday, after P Ashok Babu, president of Andhra Pradesh Non-Gazetted Officers Association and Seemandhra Secretariat Employees Association, met him at the Secretariat.
“The CM said he would meet us and listen to our demands and grievances,’’ said Babu. The employees who are on strike, however, said they have extended their strike till October 30.
The power strike has affected government and small private hospitals without generator back-up. The Vizag Steel Plant, in a statement, said it is running solely on captive power.
While road transport remained completely paralysed, train services were also hit due to power outages. The South Central Railway (SCR) officials have made alternative arrangements to use diesel locomotives in case of any emergency situation that may arise due to a possible major disruption to power supply to Railways.
Meanwhile, Congress ministers and MLAs hailing from Telangana have decided to counter the Seemandhra agitation by launching public rallies in the 10 districts of Telangana. Panchayati Raj Minister K Jana Reddy said they would hold public meetings hailing the Congress for taking the decision to create Telangana state.