Seemandhra employees call off strike after 66 days

Hyderabad, Oct 17 (IANS) In a major development that could help restore normalcy in Seemandhra, the Andhra Pradesh government employees from the region Thursday decided to call off their indefinite strike to oppose the central government's decision to carve out a separate Telangana.

Leaders of various associations of employees agreed to temporarily call off the 66-day-long after talks with Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy.

State ministers Anam Ramnarayana Reddy and P. Satyanarayana announced after the talks that the employees would attend their duties from Friday.

They said the associations agreed to call off their strike following some assurances given by the chief minister to address their concerns. Kiran Reddy assured employees that he would write a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on referring the Telangana resolution to state assembly.

The chief minister, in his letter, would urge the prime minister to follow the Constitutional process adopted while carving out Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand, said a statement issued from the chief minister's office.

The employees wanted an assurance that the resolution would come before the assembly so that it could be defeated.

Ramnarayana Reddy said all Seemandhra Congress leaders including the chief minister and state Congress chief were committed to defeat the resolution in the assembly. He said they would all work with the employees to keep the state united.

Over 400,000 government employees of Seemandhra (Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra) were on strike since Aug 12 to oppose the decision to bifurcate the state.

The strike had crippled the state administration in all 13 districts of the two regions.

Over 200,000 teachers and employees of state-owned Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) last week called off their strike.

The chief minister had appealed to all employees to call off the strike as it has paralysed the administration and all welfare and development programmes in Seemandhra.

Kiran Reddy noted that the employees participated in the strike for 66 days and did not draw Rs.2,700 crore salaries despite the hardships faced by their families.

Assuring the employees that there is no change in his stand that the state should not be divided, he promised to provide them an opportunity to place their concerns before the group of ministers constituted by the union cabinet.

Andhra Pradesh Non-Gazetted Officers (APNGOs) Association president P. Ashok Babu said they withdrew the strike temporarily. He warned that if a bill is tabled in parliament for formation of Telangana state, they would again go on strike.

He quoted the chief minister as saying that Telangana issue would come to the assembly twice.

Ashok Babu also demanded that Article 371 D be protected as it provides some safeguards to Seemandhra in recruitment of government employees.

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