Protest over new Indian state sparks power crisis

Protest over new Indian state sparks power crisis
Indian police confront supporters of united Andhra Pradesh during a protest against the formation of Telangana state, in Kurnool district.

INDIA - Massive brownouts threatened to hit some 250 million people across four of India's southern states as some power companies shut down in the face of fierce protests over a plan to divide Andhra Pradesh in two.

In Andhra Pradesh, widespread power outages proved potentially life-threatening, endangering patients in intensive care units in some hospitals.

Many people found that they could not charge their cellphones or get cash from ATMs, and more than 50 trains plying the region were cancelled, according to Agence France-Presse. Hospitals and airports turned to emergency back-up generators.

Last Thursday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Cabinet approved plans to form a new state, Telengana, from 10 of the least developed districts out of the 23 in politically important Andhra Pradesh.

Hyderabad would remain as the joint capital of both states, but violent protests erupted over the move, mainly in the developed existing parts of Andhra Pradesh. A hub for pharmaceutical companies and India's second-largest information technology centre, it has 42 seats in Parliament.

Some 30,000 power employees in the state joined protests on Sunday when they went on strike, blacking out parts of the state.

"We don't have power at all including in our offices. But we are continuing our agitation against the creation of Telengana. We don't want the state to be divided," said Mr Chiranjeevi Rao from the Vishakapatnam office of the Eastern Power Distribution Company of Andhra Pradesh.

Hyderabad also felt the pinch with two-hour power cuts during the day.

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