People Power Driving Telangana Agitation

The national media seems to be reading the situation on the ground correctly after about 2 weeks of General Strike. Read this piece from “India Today”

The demand for a separate Telangana state appears to have slipped out of the hands of political parties and their leaders. It has turned into a genuine people’s movement, if the 17-day long “Sakala Janula Samme” ( movement by people of all sections) is any indication.

The indefinite strike for a separate Telangana state has hit essential services, like sanitation.
As the name suggests, virtually every section of the society has joined the movement which has, by and large, been peaceful so far.

This is evident from the lightening strike by newspaper hawkers in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad on Thursday in support of the Telangana cause. As a result, not a single newspaper could reach readers in any part of the state capital. Even those who rushed to newspaper stalls to buy the dailies were disappointed as the vendors, too, joined the strike for Telangana.

Hundreds of newspaper hawkers took out rally to the Telangana martyrs’ memorial at Secunderabad Clock Tower. But the police prevented them and arrested many of them, including Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC) convenor Prof. M. Kodandaram.

When the indefinite strike began on September 13 after several postponements, the TJAC and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi were not happy with the response because the people it is a question of survival. That was why the TJAC announced that the strike would take place in a phased manner.

Even the Congress government led by N. Kiran Kumar Reddy was under the impression that the movement would not last long, going by previous experience.

The chief minister also sent message to the Centre that the agitation could be easily tackled.

The current strike started with about four lakh state government employees belonging to the Telangana region and about one lakh coal mine workers of Singareni Collieries in 50-odd mines.

Within three days, there was a huge turnout for the strike. The state government put up a brave front saying 80 per cent of the staff in the state secretariat turned up for duty and the impact of the strike was minimal.

But with coal reserves dwindling and required quantity not being transported to the thermal power plants, the government felt the heat.

On September 16, the situation turned serious with nearly 1.50 lakh teachers belonging to various government schools and colleges, besides staff of social welfare and tribal welfare hostels, taking a plunge into the indefinite strike.

Educational institutions were closed and hostel inmates sent to their respective institutions. The government pressured them by invoking the Essential Services Maintenance Act, but not a single teacher went back to school or college.

The mid-term vacation for the Dussehra festival began on September 27 and if the teachers did not resume their duties on September 26, they would forgo salaries for the entire holiday period, the government said.

Yet, they did not join work and instead declared that they were prepared to lose their salaries.

On September 19, more than 54,000 Telangana employees of the state-run Andhra Pradesh Transport Corporation joined the indefinite strike.

Since then, RTC buses have been off the Telangana roads. The RTC management sacked 2,300 contract drivers and conductors, but was forced to withdraw the order after a big strike near Bus Bhavan, its headquarters.

The management tried to lure the employees back by announcing double salary and a festival bonus, but they said they would not settle for anything but Telangana. With the RTC buses staying off the roads, private educational institutions also announced an indefinite shutdown in the region.

Though private buses are operating for the sake of software employees and other industrial workers, they have become a regular target of Telangana agitators.

Auto-rickshaw drivers of the region also observed a strike on September 23 and 24 in support of Telangana, while small and medium industries had to shut down for 48 hours because of a strike by Telangana workers.

Since September 22, electricity employees in generation, transmission and distribution sections – from top engineers to the level of linemen – are on strike. Except for emergency breakdowns, there is nobody even to collect electricity bills.

Municipal staff struck work for two days to express their solidarity with the movement as a result of which garbage has piled up on the streets and roads. The water supply department staff also went on a strike for a day in support of the Telangana demand.

Doctors, too, have struck work in government hospitals, except attending emergency services. Lawyers have been boycotting their cases in all parts of Telangana. Even morning walkers have formed an association and are taking out rallies in every Telangana town.

As the strike entered the 17th day on Thursday, it is now evident that the people are leading the movement in the Telangana region. “If anybody thinks it is an agitation being led by a handful of political leaders, he is mistaken. It is now a people’s movement. Even if I agree for any compromise formula by the Centre, the people will not keep quiet,” TRS president K Chandrasekhara Rao said

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