For Seemandhra's 50 million people, life is at standstill
Save for the raucous protests on the streets every day, life for 50 million people in the Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra regions of Andhra Pradesh, collectively known as Seemandhra, has virtually come to a halt ever since it was decided to carve out a separate Telangana state.
For more than a month now, normal life here has come to a stop, the administration is paralysed, government offices are shut, road transport is crippled, and all schools are closed.
'Samaikya Andhra' or united Andhra protests have been rocking Seemandhra since July 30, the day when the Congress Working Committee (CWC) announced its decision to split Andhra Pradesh.
More than 400,000 government employees and 200,000 teachers are on indefinite strike. Buses of state-run Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corp (APSRTC) have been off the roads for more than three weeks.
The impact is severe in Rayalaseema, which comprises the four districts of Anantapur, Kadapa, Chittoor and Kurnool.
This economically backward region of 15 million people is reeling under unprecedented protests and shutdowns. Ordinary people are the worst hit.
Many want to know why people should suffer for a decision in which they had no role to play.
"It is the people who started this protest because the Telangana decision will impact their lives. This is a sacrifice they are making to convey to Delhi that they are not ready to accept the division," said T. Rajakumari, a government teacher, in Eluru town of West Godavari district.
She asserted that politicians joined the protests later.
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.
J. Kameswari, a retired government lecturer in Machilipatnam in Krishna district, has not received her pension. Many like her are waiting for pension as employees in the treasuries department have also struck work.
Invoking the 'no work no pay' rule, the government has not paid salaries to employees, teachers and APSRTC workers.
Various joint action committees of employees, workers, teachers, students, lawyers and other sections of people are calling for a complete shutdown in one town in every district daily.
From education to jobs and from medical check-ups to getting official work done in the state secretariat, thousands of people from coastal towns and Rayalaseema travel to Hyderabad every day. The numbers have fallen drastically now.
P.V. Rama Sarma, a resident of Vijayawada, and his wife used to travel frequently to Hyderabad to visit their son, an executive in a private firm. Last month, they could not join him on his birthday.
G. Satyavati, a software engineer in Hyderabad, is unable to travel to Narsapuram in West Godavari district to attend a court case.
K. Ramkrishna, a private employee, has not visited his family in Guntur for more than a month due to ongoing protests. The situation in the entire region is tense.
APSRTC 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.
Cashing on the situation, private operators are charging Rs.600 to Rs.900 to travel to Vijayawada against the original fare of Rs.300.
The Seemandhra protests mirror the earlier mass daily protests in the Telanagana region that forced the Congress to bow to the demand for a new state. What will the Congress do now?
(Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 05-09-2013)