Seemandhra got no respite from power blackouts for the fourth day on Wednesday while talks with striking government employees failed and a cyclone threat added to the worries of the Andhra Pradesh government which faced calls for clamping ESMA to restore normalcy.
As the deadlock in talks including with employees of the power sector in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions showed little sign of an early settlement, the Centre moved ahead in the process to carve out a separate Telangana state deciding to hold the first meeting of the GoM set up to look into the bifurcation of AP on Friday. The GoM was announced by the Union Cabinet on October 3.
Several parts of Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema continued to reel under power crisis as the electricity employees continued their strike in protest against the proposed division of AP.
Congress said ESMA should be invoked by the party-ruled government in AP to bring normalcy in Seemandhra region even as it asserted that the decision on Telangana is irreversible but nothing can be said about any timeframe.
The power generation remained crippled at the major power stations including in Vijayawada and Rayalaseema.
Prolonged power cuts continued in the Seemandhra region and even cities like Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada were no exception as the indefinite strike of the electricity employees entered the fourth day today.
Union Government is planning to rope in NTPC and Power Grid Corporation to provide electricity to help AP tide over the power outages which has disrupted essential services and movement of trains.
"We are doing something. NTPC and PowerGrid will provide electricity to Andhra Pradesh," Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters in Delhi.
Talks between the state government and striking AP Non-Gazetted Officers Association(APNGOs) to end the ongoing indefinite strike by government employees in Seemandhra collapsed as the latter vowed to continue its agitation.
The association stuck to its stand even as Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy sought to assure it that he would not let the state be divided as long as he remained the CM.
Reddy held talks for over three hours with the APNGOs association leaders at the state Secretariat in Hyderabad to end the impasse, caused due to the indefinite strike launched on August 12.
The chief minister requested the employees to bear in mind the cyclone threat to the coastal region and withdraw the strike to meet any emergency.
According to the Met forecast, the depression that lay centred over north Andamans was expected to turn into a very severe cyclonic storm and cross north Andhra and Odisha coast between Kalingapatnam and Paradeep by the night of October 12 with a maximum sustained wind speed of 175-185 kmph.
"The first meeting of the GoM on Telangana will be held day after tomorrow," Shinde told reporters in Delhi.
Shinde will head the reconstituted Group of Ministers consisting of seven Union Ministers.
Defence Minister A K Antony, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, M Veerappa Moily and Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh are among the members of the GoM.
Minister of State for Personnel and Prime Minister's Office, V Narayanasamy, is the Special Invitee on the panel.
Determining the boundaries of the new state of Telangana and the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh with reference to the electoral constituencies, judicial and statutory bodies, and other administrative units is amogn the terms of reference of the GoM.
In Hyderabad, NGOs Association leader U Murali Krishna said the chief minister had requested it to call off the strike to avoid inconvenience to the people.
"He assured us that he would not let the state be divided as long as he remained the Chief Minister. But we told him that the strike will continue till a specific assurance was given on the bifurcation issue," he told reporters.
The NGOs association said it would discuss the government's proposal with its general body and take a decision on ending the strike.
"We will get back to the Cabinet Sub-Committee in a day or two after discussing the issue with our general body," Krishna added.
The chief minister requested the employees to bear in the mind the cyclone threat to the coastal region and withdraw the strike to meet any emergency.
The NGOs Association, however, assured the chief minister that employees of revenue, panchayat raj and other departments concerned would take part in relief and rescue operations in case of cyclone despite being on strike, its president P Ashok Babu said.
The Association requested the chief minister to lead a delegation of employees to New Delhi to present their concerns to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and others over the proposed bifurcation of the state.