Telangana paralyses AP

By Omer Farooq & Annapurna Jha

Into its 13th day, the agitation for a separate State of Telangana in Andhra Pradesh reached an unprecedented level on Saturday, with the public transport system in the whole region coming to a grinding stop.

The entire rail service was paralysed as the 48-hour long rail roko called by Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC) began on Saturday morning. The South Central Railway has cancelled 55 express trains and partially cancelled 48 others. Over 100 passenger trains were also cancelled. While about 10,000 APSRTC buses were already on strike for the last six days, about 4.5 lakh autorickshaws have also gone off the roads now.

Even people with their own vehicles found it difficult to venture out as petrol pumps too were on strike. In fact, wine shops and barbers had also downed shutters in support of the agitation.

The Kiran Reddy Government was also in a panic mode over the worsening power situation, as there was no sign of Singareni Collieries’ workers ending their strike and resuming coal production. This is despite the management’s offer to double the wages of those workers who return to work. This, in effect, meant a payment of Rs 1,000 per day but the striking workers have rejected the offer.

While die hard Congress leaders like Karimnagar MP Ponnam Prabhakar and Nalgonda MLA R Damodar Reddy have said they were even ready to pull down their own Government in the State for the sake of Telangana, nearly half a dozen Ministers were preparing to submit their resignations. Another 20 MLAs are also likely to follow suit.

In view of the prevailing situation, Congress leaders Madhu Yashki and Vivek and CPI’s Sudhakar Reddy and K Narayana met Defence Minister AK Antony in Delhi, urging him to take a quicker decision on the issue.

A round-table on Telangana will be held by the TJAC in the Capital on Sunday, wherein “like-minded people” will deliberate on how to get a separate State.

The Congress is in a Catch-22 situation as it realises that it cannot postpone taking a decision on the Telangana issue indefinitely.

Walking a tight rope trying to balance the people from various regions, the party has been avoiding taking any decision so as not to alienate any one region but in the process the situation is fast slipping out of its hand in the state which contributes a large chunk of MPs to Parliament.

AICC General Secretary incharge for Andhra Pradesh Ghulam Nabi Azad, who has been asked to prepare a report on the issue, is returning from abroad late on Sunday night. Azad, who has already met leaders from Andhra and Telangana regions and some members of Rayalaseema, is likely to submit his report to the party leadership by the end of this month.

Congress leaders from the state are planning to come to the capital on Monday to renew their pressure on the party high command to take a decision in favour of creating Telangana. Since many of the party MPs have earlier submitted their resignation, which is still pending with Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, it is not clear what more further steps they could take to pressurize the party and the Government.

Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury, who hails from Andhra region, however, said that it is better to be over cautious than take chance on such issue and that her party could not take a decision in favour of Telangana just because TRS is demanding it.

The day break saw thousands of Telangana supporters descending on the railway stations and occupying railway tracks in Hyderabad and nine other districts of the region. Normally busy stations of Secunderabad, Nampally and Kachiguda in Hyderabad wore a deserted look.

At Moula Ali station just outside Hyderabad, thousands of workers of TRS and the BJP led by TJAC covenor Prof Kodanda Ram sat in dharna. TRS legislator Taraka Rama Rao and senior BJP leader and former minister of state for railways Bandaru Dattatreya were also among the protestors.

At Kazipet junction, through which most of the North-south train pass every day, thousands of protestors led by the local TRS MLA Vinay Bhaskar were occupying the tracks.

In Khammam, bordering Andhra region, the workers of CPIML New Democracy were sitting on Dharna and occupied the rail tracks. Similar protests were continuing in all the other districts Adilabad, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Medak, Mehbubnagar, Nalgonda and Ranga Reddy.

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