Telangana 'decision' leaves Seemandhra in complete disarray

The clock has virtually stopped moving forward in all the 13 districts of Seemandhra region of Andhra Pradesh ever since the Congress Working Committee announced its decision to bifurcate the first ever linguistic state for Telugu speaking people into Telangana and Andhra Pradesh about a month ago.

The protest has been spontaneous with the people coming out on the streets the very next day demanding reversal of the decision. Schools, colleges and civic administration came to a grinding halt by August 11 after the Andhra Pradesh Non-Gazette Officers (APNGO), an umbrella organisation of four-lakh government employees of the Seemandhra region, boycotted duties and took over the reins of the rudderless agitation. With the employees of state operated APSRTC and over two-lakh government teachers joining the agitation, all aspects of normal life in Seemandhra has come to a grinding halt.  

For almost a month and a half, Rayalaseema, which comprises the four districts of Anantapur, Kadapa, Chittoor and Kurnool, has witnessed unprecedented unrest, where people vent their ire on all Congress icons by vandalising them.

This economically backward region of 15 million people feels utterly neglected as their concerns have not been addressed while taking the decision to bifurcate the state. “We have sacrificed Bellary to Karnataka and Kurnool as the capital, and built our lives around Hyderabad. We (people of Rayalaseema) have no water to drink even in united Andhra Pradesh. What will happen if Telangana is given away?” asks Byreddy Rajasekhara Reddy of Rayalaseema Rights Protection Forum.

Suddenly, the pilgrims to the holy shrine of Tirumala, located in Rayalaseema region also faced trouble as buses stopped plying from Tirupati to the hills and vice versa. Thousands of pilgrims fought for a few seats available in the make shift buses arranged by the TTD, which runs the administration. Setting up another record, the TTD staff, particularly the priests, also joined the stir by boycotting duties. The number of visitors to the abode of Lord Venkateshwara which used to attract thousands of pilgrims everyday from across the country, has been reduced to a trickle as transportation has been badly hit by the agitation.

With the bus services between Hyderabad and destinations in Rayalaseema and beyond coming to a virtual halt, common man suffers a lot as alternative mode of transportation has become dearer. Even though the APSRTC ferries passengers wishing to travel to Anantapur and Bangalore from Hyderabad till Mahbubnagar, three wheelers and taxis charge exorbitant rates from the hapless passengers wishing to cross the Seema border towards Karnataka. However private bus operators are running their luxury buses between Hyderabad and destinations in Karnataka despite the demand from agitators to join the agitation.


Schools shut

More than 50,000 government schools are shut in 13 districts, affecting about five million children. Private schools, however, are working normally in many towns. With the parents of convent going children successfully pressurising the managements to conduct classes to save the academic year, poor children enrolled in government schools are bearing the brunt as government teachers have boycotted duties. “But we will complete the syllabus in time. We will run extra classes for tenth class students,” a representative of government school teachers association claims.

Meanwhile, invoking the ‘no work no pay’ rule, the government has not paid salaries to employees, teachers and APSRTC workers “Government employees will have to suffer as they have not received salary for the month of August. Pensioners’ also suffering as the money is not deposited in their accounts. 

The situation is much worse for contract employees working as data entry operators in revenue and water works, as they were supposed to be paid by the contractor,” Rajanikanth a contract employee in irrigation department of Krishna district said.

The APSRTC, which used to operate 1,500 buses on the Hyderabad-Vijayawada route alone and hundreds of services to Visakhapatnam, Guntur, Ongole, Nellore, Kurnool, Tirupati,  Anantapur, Kadapa and other towns is now operating 50 to 100 buses per day to drop and pick up passengers till the borders of Telangana where buses are moving freely.

Cashing on the situation, private operators are charging Rs 600 to Rs 900 to travel to Vijayawada against the original fare of Rs 300. “With all the trains going to Seemandhra destinations bursting at seems with extra passengers, private operators are minting money by fixing the rates before departure, virtually auctioning the few available seats from gullible passengers,” Kalyan Ram a sales executive rued.

The ongoing Samaikyandhra stir has blown a huge hole in Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation’s (GVMC) coffers, the second major city in the state after Hyderabad, with revenue collections dipping alarmingly for the month of August as the staff went on strike. If the situation continues unabated, the movement could send GVMC's budget for the current fiscal, for a toss. 

The civic body, which on an average collects Rs 1 crore per day by way of various taxes, has seen its revenues plunge to Rs 30-40 lakh per day due to strikes by its staff and the overall effect of the Samaikyandhra movement, say officials.

If the trend continues, there would be a Rs 15-20 crore drop in GVMC’s monthly revenues and would eventually hit its revenues for the fiscal. The situation is no different in all the 13 districts where tax collectors and municipal staff are on indefinite strike protesting the CWC decision.

Underlining the principle of interdependability the ongoing agitation has led to steep increase in prices of vegetables, milk, fish, agri products and fodder in the Telangana region, particularly state capital Hyderabad as the supply from coastal Andhra has dwindled. The leaders spearheading the agitation and the government should take bold initiatives to alleviate the pain of the common man on either side.

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