Andhra Pradesh observes bandh over special category status demand

Srinivasa Rao Apparasu

Andhra Pradesh shut down on Monday in response to a call by an opposition-backed people’s forum to demand special category status to the state which turned violent with protesters setting vehicles on fire in Tirupati.

The day-long bandh called by Pratyeka Hoda Sadhana Samithi (Committee to achieve special category status), a joint action committee of all the Opposition parties and people’s organisations in Andhra Pradesh in protest against the ‘indifferent attitude’ of the Centre towards their demand evoked huge response in the state.

“Additional forces have been deployed to ensure the bandh is peaceful,” director general of police (DGP) M Malakondaiah said.

While the Bharatiya Janata Party expectedly opposed the bandh, the ruling Telugu Desam Party stayed away from the agitation with chief minister Chandrababu Naidu saying he did not favour bandhs because they hamper development and cause a lot of inconvenience to the people.

Naidu came under fire from the main opposition party, the YSR Congress which accused him of adopting double standards.

“When Naidu was the opposition leader, he had called for bandhs on many occasions, but as a chief minister he is now opposing them, saying they hinder development,” YSRC political affairs committee member Ambati Rambabu said.

Activists of various Opposition parties, including YSR Congress party, CPI, CPI (M), Jana Sena Party and various other organisations hit the streets early in the morning and staged protest demonstrations in front of the bus depots. They stopped the attempts of the state-run road transport corporation to run buses to different parts of the state.

Only emergency and essential services were spared from the bandh call. In Tirupati, the protestors spared buses carrying pilgrims to Tirumala temple.

Reports of activists belonging to the Left parties, the YSR Congress party, the Congress and Jana Sena Party taking out rallies, blocking the roads and staging dharnas were reported Vijayawada, Guntur, Rajahmundry, Kakinada, Nellore, Visakhapatnam, Srikakulam, Nellore, Tirupati, Chittoor and Kadapa towns.

YSR Congress party president Y S Jaganmohan Reddy took a day’s break from his padayatra to participate in protest demonstrations in Krishna district.

Shops, business establishments, private educational institutions, hotels and restaurants voluntarily were closed in support of the bandh. While private educational institutions shut down in support of the bandh, government educational institutions were kept open but the attendance was skeletal due to lack of transportation.

All colleges and universities in different parts of the state postponed their examination schedule by a day.

On March 23, the Andhra Pradesh Pratyeka Hoda Saadhana Samiti had organized a “national highway blockade” in support of its demand for a special status for the state.

Naidu, who faces election in 2019, pulled the TDP out of the quit the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in March in protest against the Centre’s ‘failure’ to accord special status to Andhra, a promise that was made when Telangana state was carved out of its northern areas in 2014.

Special status demand

The Centre which ruled out special status that would have allowed Andhra a greater share of aid from the Union government, says the state has been compensated adequately.

The special category status was first introduced in 1969 by the 5th Finance Commission (FC). Under a constitutional mandate, the mechanism for sharing of financial resources between the Centre and states is fixed by the FCs every five years. The 5th FC made a case for preferential treatment of disadvantaged states.

The 14th FC in 2015 increased the states’ share of net Union tax revenues to 42% from 32%. According to Union finance minister Arun Jaitley, following this, the case for ‘special status’ doesn’t exist anymore. A central government circular was issued in 2016.

(With PTI input)

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