Andhra Pradesh state employees, including those in the crucial power sector, on Wednesday said their strike over creation of Telangana would continue as talks with the government on the issue had failed.
The AP Non-Gazetted Officers (APNGO) Association and the Electricity Employees Joint Action Committee, which held talks with a Cabinet Sub-Committee and later with the Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, refused to call off the indefinite strike until they got a clear assurance from the Centre on revoking the move to bifurcate the state.
The employees, from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions, adopted a rigid stance on the strike as they are said to be peeved over conflicting claims made by the Congress's central leaders on the state bifurcation issue.
This was reflected in the talks held with state government yesterday and today, and the end result was a failure with the employees announcing that the strike will continue.
The Chief Minister went to the extent of assuring the employees that he "would not let the state be divided" as long as he remained in his post but that seemingly did not cut any ice as both organisations announced that the talks had "failed".
The only ray of hope that the striking employees offered was that they would discuss the government's offer within their associations in the next two to three days and get back to the Cabinet Sub-Committee.
While the 59-day-old strike by the APNGO Association has not had much impact, the protest by electricity employees for the past three days has pushed all 13 districts in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema into darkness and left the state capital Hyderabad starving for power.
Sources said that the employees took a rigid stance because of conflicting claims made by Congress leaders in New Delhi over the bifurcation.
"Leaders in Delhi are coming out with divergent claims day in and day out," Secretariat Seemaandhra Employees Association leader Murali Krishna said.
APNGO Association president P Ashok Babu was more forthright, saying, "The Chief Minister promised to defeat the resolution (on dividing the state) in the Assembly, but we can't go by his promise alone.
"We need a concrete assurance from the Central government leaders as well as other political parties in the state for us to end the strike."
During his three-hour meeting with the APNGO at the Secretariat this afternoon, the Chief Minister requested them to call off the strike to avoid inconvenience to the people.
He assured them that he would not let the state be divided as long as he remained Chief Minister. Reddy also requested the employees to bear in the mind a cyclone threat to the coastal region.
The APNGO Association, however, assured the Chief Minister that employees of revenue, panchayat raj and other departments would take part in relief and rescue operations if the cyclone hits the coast.
Meanwhile, there was no improvement in power generation and distribution in Andhra Pradesh today.
Before the strike, AP was getting 11,000 MW from generating stations in the state and outside. The available power has dropped to 8,500 MW in the last two days, resulting in blackout in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema districts, besides affecting supply to Hyderabad city, a top official of Power Transmission Corporation of Andhra Pradesh Limited (AP Transco) told PTI.
The available power is being proportionally used by all four distribution companies in the state, including two in Telangana, but with staff of Transco and Discoms on strike, supply has been hampered in Seemandhra districts.