NEW DELHI — Protests and power cuts have shut down a key state in southern India. Demonstrators are criticizing the government's move to allow the creation of a new state out of the Andhra Pradesh, whose state capital is home to several major international companies.
Andhra Pradesh remains tense as demonstrations enter their fourth day.
Hours before, protesters, who do not want to see the creation of a new Telangana state, took to the streets in coastal cities, defying shoot-at-sight orders to clash with police armed with rubber bullets.
Tens of thousands of electricity department workers are continuing their strike, crippling power and train service on Monday.
In the Indian capital, the head of the Telegu Desam Party, former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has begun an indefinite fast against the ruling Congress Party and last week’s Cabinet decision to create India’s 29th state.
“If you see the Congress Party, the way they have behaved for the last 70 days, the common man has lost confidence on the government. Not only the government, even on political parties also," Naidu said. "Today there is a stand still, no confidence.”
The issue is not new. Demands for a separate state called Telangana have been going on since India’s independence in 1947, with residents of 10 of 23 of Andhra Pradesh’s districts saying they have been neglected by the state government, with jobs, infrastructure and economic prosperity mostly going to those living in the coastal region.
Critics say a new Telangana state will be a disaster, with Hyderabad becoming a shared state capital for the next 10 years. The booming city is home to several multinational companies and is quickly becoming a hub for Indian “start-up” firms.
Other people simply do not want to see a divided state and wonder who will be next. India is already home to several distinct cultures and languages and is divided for the most part, along those lines. Three new states, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh, were created in 2000. And similar demands for statehood are being seen in the eastern Indian states of Assam and West Bengal.
A senior fellow at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, Satish Misra, says in many cases people believe the formation of a new state is the only way to deal with a general lack of governance in their state.
“Improve governance, that includes the removal of corruption, that includes attending to their day-to-day problems, attending to their basic demands, all these things have to be met,” Misra stated.
Misra said, while supporters of Telangana have a strong case, he questions the way the government has decided to move forward with the issue. The political analyst says a second state reorganization commission should be created with various parameters, for example, whether a new state should be created for language or for better governance.
“That can only be tackled by a commission that goes deep into the problems and projects solutions," said Misra. "Not this entire “fire-fighting” approach that has been prevalent in the last 20 years or so. In my opinion, it is very dangerous.”
With just months before national elections in India, opponents of Telangana say the Congress Party’s decision to divide Andhra Pradesh is tied to winning support in the polls next year.
Telangana is not a done deal. The state assembly must sign off on a resolution for a new state, which then goes to India’s parliament for approval.