Over 4 lakh Seemandhra staff strike

Hyderabad, Aug 13 (IANS) Over four lakh government employees from Seemandhra Tuesday began an indefinite strike urging the central government not to divide Andhra Pradesh.

Normal life was hit in most of the 13 Seemandhra districts (Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra regions), as shops, business establishments and educational institutions remained closed.

Transport was paralysed since Monday night as more than 12,000 buses went off the roads. Employees of state-owned Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) took part in the strike.

The strike follows protests and shutdowns in Seemandhra since July 30 when the Congress Working Committee and the United Progressive Alliance endorsed creation of a separate Telangana state.

The Andhra Pradesh Non-Gazetted Officers (APNGO) Association, which called for the strike, had exempted emergency services.

Employees in health, municipal administration and electricity departments have also joined the strike.

The work in the state secretariat, the seat of governance, and some other government offices in Hyderabad was also affected as Seemandhra employees stayed away from duty.

Petrol pumps also began a 24-hour-long shutdown from Monday midnight.

Lawyers also boycotted courts.

The APNGO began the strike as all central and state ministers, members of parliament and state legislators from Seemandhra did not resign as demanded by it to mount pressure on the central government.

APNGO President P. Ashok Babu said 4.25 lakh employees were participating in the strike.

"The employees are at the forefront of the agitation as they will be the worst affected by the state's division," he said and made it clear that the strike would continue till all the elected representatives quit to force the central government to withdraw its decision.

Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy reviewed the situation. He held a meeting with Chief Secretary P.K. Mohanty and other top officials at the state secretariat.

Reddy, who was not coming to the secretariat since July 30, attended office Monday and Tuesday. He directed the APSRTC authorities and the collector of Chittoor district to make alternate transport arrangements for pilgrims visiting Tirumala Venkateswara temple at Tirupati.

For the first time in nearly four decades, buses between Tirupati and Tirumala Hills were stopped due to the strike, causing hardship to pilgrims.

The chief minister also directed the officials to make alternate arrangements to ensure that health, municipal services and electricity supply were not affected.

The Mahatma Gandhi Bus Station in Hyderabad wore a near-deserted look as all bus services between Hyderabad and Vijayawada, Guntur, Visakhapatnam, Kakinada, Nellore, Ongole, Kurnool, Kadapa, Tirupati and Anantapur were suspended.

APSRTC Managing Director A.K. Khan told reporters that the strike would deal a big blow to the corporation, which has already suffered a loss of Rs.98 crore due to protests during the past two weeks.

Transport Minister Botsa Satyanarayana, also president of the state Congress, said alternate arrangements were being made to ensure essential services were not affected.


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