Andhra Pradesh seeks Centre’s help to tide over power crisis

Andhra Pradesh seeks Centre’s help to tide over power crisis

Hyderabad: Andhra Pradesh has sought New Delhi’s help to tide over its power crisis and begun rationing electricity as Telangana activists entered the ninth day of a strike that’s crippling key services in the state.

The activists are demanding the separation of the Telangana region, which includes capital city Hyderabad, from the state.

Chief minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to ensure additional supplies of natural gas and coal to fuel power stations in the state, Press Trust of India reported.

State authorities also decided to impose a 2-hour power cut in Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy districts from Wednesday to combat the power crisis.

Coal production in the mines of Singareni Collieries Co. Ltd spread over four Telangana districts has come to a halt as workers have struck work since 13 September.

Kiran Kumar Reddy has asked Singareni Collieries, the largest employer in the region, to hire contract labour to work at its coal mines with police protection.

On Wednesday, 3,500 sanitation workers of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) joined the strike to demand a separate state, threatening to disrupt garbage disposal and sanitation.

“The strike notice was given three months ago. The government could have prepared for emergency situations," said Swamy Goud, president of Telangana Non-Gazetted Officers Association.

Government employees, including road transport corporation and electricity department workers, teachers and various student unions, have joined the indefinite strike called by the Telangana Joint Action Committee, an umbrella organization of pro-Telangana groups.

On 24 and 25 September, private auto and taxi workers will join the strike, said Goud.

Already, public transport in the region is paralysed as around 70,000 Andhra Pradesh Road Transport Corporation workers joined the strike on Monday. Goud said electricity department workers on strike will not collect bills, but will be available for emergency services. Sanitation workers have declared they will not clear garbage in the coming days.

“In August 2009, when GHMC faced a similar deadlock in waste disposal due to general strike, the state government brought a few workers from Vijayawada. Thus, almost 15-17% of garbage was removed," said Ashwini Kumar, superintendent engineer in Andhra Pradesh public health department, indicating the state may opt for similar solutions.

Ahead of the strike, the state government brought departments such as sanitation, finance and electricity under the Essential Services Maintenance Act to ensure that services deemed vital are not disrupted. The government has also threatened to implement a no-work-no-pay rule to curb the strike.

On Tuesday, Kiran Kumar Reddy gave a televised appeal to the agitators to call off the strike as it is disrupting normal life in the state. He said the campaign will not sway the Centre’s approach in dealing with the region’s demand for a separate statehood.

Pro-Telangana activists are demanding the formation of a separate state of Telangana with Hyderabad as its capital at the earliest. Politicians from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions want Andhra Pradesh, a state of 85 million people, to be kept unified. This has made it hard for the Union government to form a political consensus on the issue.