Opponents of India’s Newest State Stage Blackouts and Protests

Critics argue that the creation of Telangana will impact an already floundering national economy

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NOAH SEELAM / AFP / Getty Images

Indian supporters of united Andhra Pradesh gather on a street and shout slogans during a protest against the formation of Telangana state, in Ananthapuram district some 400 kms from Hyderabad on Oct. 4, 2013

Thousands of striking electrical workers have shut down power plants for a third day in Andhra Pradesh, leaving large swaths of the southern Indian state in darkness. The blackouts have crippled hospitals, train services, ATMs, and caused fuel and drinking water shortages. IT staffers and ER surgeons alike have been working in darkness, and an indefinite curfew has been imposed on parts of the state rocked by several days of violent protests.

At the heart of the furor: Telangana, India’s would-be newest state. In July, India’s ruling Congress party announced plans to form Telangana, a region of Andhra Pradesh where a statehood movement has been brewing for years. The decision has deeply divided the region into supporters and critics of the breakoff. The latter, who include the striking electrical workers, are worried about losing their state capital, Hyderabad, which would fall under Telangana’s jurisdiction — and take a lot of money and political sway with it.

(MORE: India’s Newest State Is Born Out of Political Calculation, Not Cultural Identity)

In India, statehood was once based on language and cultural identity, but the country has gotten into the habit of splitting states up to make them easier to govern. That was the idea behind Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand, both formed in 2000. Telangana, too, was envisaged with better government in mind — but the announcement of its formation comes in the run up to an election. Andhra Pradesh sends 42 parliamentarians to India’s lower house. Almost half of the constituencies they represent are in Telangana. Many therefore see the Congress Party’s move as a bald bid to appease separatists and boost parliamentary support ahead of national elections scheduled for 2014.

Telangana is not a state yet — it’s formalization still has to go through a few rounds of parliamentary votes and questions about the central government’s ability to push ahead are being asked. The creation of Telangana is no small thing — it would be home to more people than most countries in the world, including Canada, Malaysia or Iraq. Some worry that if protests over its formation continue, law enforcement attention in the state will be diverted from controlling a long-simmering Maoist insurgency, giving space to weakened extremists to once again gather strength.

Others argue that the national economy, already floundering, has the most to lose. Hyderabad, Telangana’s would-be capital, is a high-tech hub and home to the India operations of global corporations like Google and Microsoft. In 2009, the World Bank named Hyderabad the second best city to do business in in India. If Telangana forms only to dissolve into instability, domestic and foreign companies are not going to stick around. And if that happens, it’s not just the people of Andhra Pradesh who will be left in the dark.

MORE: India Separates Into More States to Keep the Peace

7 comments
vaishnavjagdip
vaishnavjagdip

It is most disheartening that  strike as sponsored in power distribution companies,have put patients in great trouble.Infants, patients, etc are lying on bed without fan, even emergency operations are not conducted in time.Hospitals have no generators of adequate capacity  .

Politician play game of double speak, sufferers are common man. Bifurcation of state has multiple problems, & one can never fully satisfy every one

Seetharama Raju
Seetharama Raju

Officially that Congress party is not a ruling party. We've a coalition Govt [ UPA 2 ] here with many other Political parties supporting the Govt to rule this Country and destroy the Future of the Country. Their only achievements are, Poverty, Scams, Corruption which runs into Billions, skyrocketing Fuel prices, Dividing people in the name of Religion and Caste, Inflation, Falling Economic Growth, Millions of Child Labour, Burning important files related to their Scams, Using Intelligence agencies to blackmail other Political parties to support them in their cheap policies which are against the National interests, Etc, Etc, Etc.. And they have time to divide the State against the wishes of the majority of the People.Funny thing is, they believe that by changing the names of the Major cities and dividing the States will help the developmental aspects. That so called development hasn't seen the light yet. In Decades. Probably it'll never. Reason: Cheap Politics.

UnniN
UnniN

The indian States should have been divided solely for administrative convenience, not on tenuous grounds of language, and caste. The linguistic division of states undertaken at the insistence of Jawaharlal Nehru was a big mistake and Sardar Patel the then Finance Minister had cautioned against it but no one paid heed. Now look at the consequences!. How I wish we could go back to the old system of Presidencies for governance! There had been just  4 at the time, The Madras, Calcutta, Delhi and Bombay Presidencies. Had these Presidencies been retained, there would have been no caste or language based conflicts that have been the bane of recent years and the rise of linguistic chauvinism  would have been averted. Language in India has not been a unifier but has been used by unscrupulous politicians to drive deep wedges between Indian and Indian.