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'People's strike' brings Telangana to a halt

Tuesday September 13, 2011 06:31:36 PM, IANS

Hyderabad: The administration in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh came to a standstill as the "people's strike" began Tuesday, intensifying the movement for separate statehood to the region.

About 400,000 government employees, teachers, workers, lawyers and a section of doctors launched the indefinite strike.

The work in courts was also affected as lawyers also joined the protest for a separate state.

In some places like Warangal, doctors and other medical and para-medical staff in government hospitals also struck work to demand a Telangana state.

Coal production in the government-owned Singareni Collieries Company Ltd (SCCL) came to a grinding halt Tuesday as its over 100,000 workers joined the "people's strike", an official said.

Work in 50 mines spread over Adilabad, Karimnagar, Warangal and Khammam districts came to a standstill as the employees began the indefinite strike.

Administration from village to state secretariat was affected as government employees and officials in all departments joined the indefinite strike on a call given by Telangana Joint Action Committee (JAC), which is spearheading the movement for a separate Telangana state.

Work in the state secretariat was only partially hit as employees belonging to Telangana stayed away from duties but those from the Andhra and Rayalaseema regions turned up at their offices in the state secretariat and other departments in the state capital. They worked under tight police security.

Slogans of "Jai Telangana" echoed across Hyderabad and nine other districts of Telangana as employees, teachers, students, workers, lawyers, doctors and people from other walks of life took out rallies, formed human chains and held demonstrations, demanding the central government carve out a separate state.

A large number of both government and private schools and colleges in the region were closed as teachers joined the "sakala janula samme" or the people's strike. Cinema theatres were also closed to show solidarity with the movement.

Employees staged protests outside the offices of collectors in all 10 districts. Work in the offices of the collectors and key departments came to a standstill.

Activists of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other pro-Telangana groups also staged road blockades in support of the strike.

Police arrested the Telugu Desam Party's leaders from Telangana when they tried to lay siege to the state secretariat.

BJP leaders and activists took out a rally to Telangana martyrs' memorial at Gun Park here, demanding the central government table a bill in parliament for formation of a Telangana state.

"The indefinite strike in coming days will turn into a mega battle and a stage will come where Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy will have to leave the state secretariat," warned BJP leader Bandaru Dattatreya.

In Nizamabad, lawyers locked up the district court. Work in Nampally criminal court here was also affected by the lawyers' strike.

The employees of SCCL did not turn up for duty from 7 a.m. as all their 14 unions were supporting the strike call. On a normal day, the company produces about 120,000 tonnes of coal in 36 underground and 14 open cast mines, said a company official.

Singareni employees began a 'rasta roko' movement by forming human chains.

If it continues, the strike is likely to affect nearly 10 thermal power stations in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. With an installed capacity of 7,000 MW, these stations depend on Singareni coal for their operations.

The JAC has decided to go ahead with the strike despite Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy threatening to act tough.

The government Monday made it clear that it would not hesitate to invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to ban strikes, implement a "no work, no pay" order and initiate disciplinary action against the strikers.

Employees of the state-owned Andhra Pradesh Road Transport Corporation and other public sector undertakings also plan to join the strike from Sep 16.

At a massive public meeting in Karimnagar Monday night, leaders of the TRS and the JAC warned the government against invoking the ESMA.

"Telangana will burn if the government dares to use ESMA against any employee, teacher or worker," said TRS chief K. Chandrasekhara Rao.

KCR, as Rao is popularly known, said the agitation would not stop till the central government fulfills its Dec 9, 2009, promise to carve out a Telangana state.






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