Andhra Pradesh's Seemandhra region remained on the boil with protests continuing against the central government's decision to carve out Telangana, while electricity employees' strike for the third day Tuesday hit life hard in many parts of the state.
The central government, which ruled out imposing President's rule in the restive state, late Tuesday announced setting up of a seven-member group of ministers (GoM) to look into issues of the bifurcation.
In Seemandhra (Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra regions), the state machinery continued to be paralysed while government-run schools remained shut as over six lakh government employees and teachers persisted with their strike, which began Aug 12, and buses of state-owned road transport corporation also remained off the road for nearly two months now.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters in New Delhi that there was "no plan for now to impose President's rule".
Official sources said the GoM will look into distribution of resources like financial assets, water and electricity, and government staff, reorganisation of assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies and make recommendations on the boundaries of Telangana.
It comprises Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Petroleum Minister M. Veerappa Moily and Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh.
Protests against the proposed division of the state showed no signs of abating, with government employees and students staging demonstrations outside central government offices and nationalised banks.
They also tried to blockade the residences of central and state ministers, members of parliament and state legislature.
About 30,000 employees of power utilities in Seemandhra's 13 districts stayed away from work, almost paralysing generation and transmission.
The strike has plunged several towns and hundreds of villages in darkness, causing severe hardships to hospital patients, affecting the drinking and irrigation water supply, leading to cancellation of trains and disrupting internet and ATM services.
Production in hundreds of industries also has come to a grinding halt.
Vizianagaram town in coastal Andhra remained under curfew for the fourth day. Curfew was relaxed for one hour in the morning, during which no untoward incident was reported.
Also in the national capital, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president N. Chandrababu Naidu continued his hunger strike for the second day, demanding talks with the leaders of all regions of the state to find an amicable solution to the current turmoil.
Opposing the state's division, YSR Congress party chief Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy also persisted with his hunger strike in Hyderabad for the fourth day.
In Delhi, Congress general secretary in charge of party affairs in the state, Digvijaya Singh released to media letters written by both thed TDP and YSR Congress, supporting the formation of Telangana state.
As power supply remained snapped, people in Andhra Pradesh lost contact with the outside world as their mobile phones could mnot be re-charged. In many towns, people were not even able to draw money from ATMs.
The talks between electricity employees' Joint Action Committee (JAC) and top officials in Hyderabad remained inconclusive. The government appealed to employees to return to work in view of the hardships being caused to people.
Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy has called JAC leaders for talks.
The strike has brought to a standstill generation in all major power plants in Seemandhra. The strike has also impacted Hyderabad and other parts of Telangana with authorities imposing power cuts to tide over the shortage.
The state has a demand of 11,000 MW, but only 7,200 MW is being supplied. According to officials of Andhra Pradesh Generation Corporation (AP Genco), generation of 3,870 MW has come to a halt.
Ahead of their talks with the chief minister scheduled for Wednesday, leaders of government employees said they would continue the strike unless the central government gives a clear assurance that the state will not be divided.
"After the talks with the chief minister, we will announce our future course of action," said P. Ashok Babu, president of Andhra Pradesh Non-Gazetted Officers' Association.
Digvijaya Singh, however, reiterated that the decision was taken after consultation with all parties and ruled out going back on it. He appealed to Seemandhra employees to call off their strike and assured that the concerns of Seemandhra people would be addressed.