Blackouts, curfews and protests over India's newest state

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 08, 2013 6:53 AM

By Sruthi Gottipati

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Blackouts hit emergency services and industry in parts of India's Andhra Pradesh state on Tuesday, the third day of a strike by public workers protesting against a government decision to split the southern state in two.

The move to carve out a new state called Telangana triggered violent protests over the weekend and officials said a curfew was imposed for two days in Vizianagaram, one of 13 districts of coastal Andhra Pradesh where many people are opposed to the state being divided.

The state is a hub for Western IT giants and Google has its Indian headquarters in its capital, Hyderabad. Microsoft and Dell also have offices in the city which will remain the common capital for the two states for 10 years.

Tech companies have largely been unaffected by the protests.

The ruling Congress party approved the creation of Telangana in July, fanning the embers of political division within the state. The cabinet cleared the proposal on Thursday.

Ashok Babu Parchuri, president of a federation representing striking state government employees, said their action had disrupted train services and water supplies and closed hospitals.

"Unless we get some political assurance about keeping the state united, we cannot go back," he said.

Supporters of the split say the Telangana region's economic development has been neglected in favor of the richer and more powerful coastal region of Andhra.

Critics say the Congress party had long resisted calls for the new state and only took the step to win votes in coming elections. The undivided state sent 34 members of parliament to the national parliament for Congress and its allies in 2009, making it an important political prize.

Many government employees have been on strike since August 12, but the protests have escalated since Sunday when electricity workers joined the agitation.

Srinivas Ayyadevara president of the Federation of Andhra Pradesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry said supplies and deliveries for businesses were hit by train cancellations and the power outages were disrupting factories.

"This time everything has been affected," Ayyadevara said.

"It has eaten into our production schedules," he said, adding that businesses were thinking twice about deals with companies in Andhra Pradesh.

"They're now wary of placing orders."

(Reporting By Sruthi Gottipati; Additional reporting by Harichandan Arakali; Editing by Robert Birsel)