September 22, 2013 12:14:35 am
There are separate protest zones,separate entry and exit points,and more officials out protesting than in their rooms. Nearly two months after the Congress Working Committee gave its approval to a separate Telangana state,the Andhra Pradesh Secretariat is openly,vocally and angrily split down the middle.
Employees from the Coastal and Rayalaseema districts,known as Seemandhra,are pitted against the Telangana-region officials. With pro-united Andhra Pradesh protests reaching the state capital,they have formed themselves into the Seemandhra Secretariat Employees Association and the Telangana Secretariat Employees Association respectively,and both have been holding daily protests.
A Padmachary,45,an official in the Planning Department,L Block,says he is pained by what he sees. The secretary of the Telangana Officers and Employees Association,he comes to office at 9 am,and as he drives into the Secretariat complex,he passes by the Seemandhra employees at the main gate,who have been on a strike since September 3.
Since I know their leaders,we greet each other and go our separate ways. But others become angry, Padmachary says.
However,his first stop too is the protest site of the Telangana officers association,at K Block. They chalk out the days programmeusually a protest during lunch hour and making representations to the chief secretary,or organising a meeting with the Seemandhra employees association to discuss concerns of both sides.
As lunch hour draws near at 1 pm,it is common to see employees of the two regions raising slogans and protesting in the Secretariat complex. Many Telangana employees say they have stopped going to the canteen because of the heated pro-Andhra Pradesh arguments that take place there.
Work is at a grinding halt. Officials say hundreds of files are stuck as attendance of ministers of both regions,waiting for the signal from Delhi either way,is irregular. Even Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy,upset over the coming bifurcation of the state,didnt come to office for many days,preferring to work from home. His first meeting with the ministers hailing from Telangana after the new state was announced was in the second week of September.
While the CM has now started coming regularly,the strike by the Andhra Pradesh Non-Gazetted Officers Association from September 3 has again put the brakes on work. An official says that important meetings on water projects,irrigation,rural development are pending. There is nobody to take dictations or make notes so senior officers are punching keyboards themselves and taking printouts and preparing files or presentations, an official says.
Recently,after the tensions resulted in acrimonious confrontations between the two groups,along with the exchange of insults and abuses,separate entry and exit routes were chalked out for the Seemandhra and Telangana sides,to ward off any chances of open confrontation. Chief Secretary P K Mohanty has also allocated different sites at the Secretariat complex for the two groups to hold their protests. While Seemandhra employees hold their protests at the Nalla Pochamma temple on the premises,Telangana employees do so at the K Block.
Last week,when employees of one region decided to take another route to avoid a road left muddy by the rain,it brought them close to a group of protesting employees from the other region,and tempers flared up.
Padmachary blames the Seemandhra officials. Telangana employees are treated like second-class citizens. There are 3,800 employees in the Secretariat,of which only 800 are from Telangana. A majority of them are Class IV employees. After 60 years of agitations and countless deaths,a separate Telangana state was announced. I do not understand why Seemandhra employees have started protesting against Telangana now. Employees of Telangana and Seemandhra now have the opportunity to serve people of their own states, he says.
Outnumbered by the Seemandhra employees,other Telangana employees too claim their feelings are bulldozed. Depending on who is protesting,desks remain empty. Sometimes entire sections are empty as both groups are staging a demonstration, a section officer says.
Given the dispute over the status of Hyderabad,Padmachary also appears to suggest that the Secretariat belongs to Telangana. We feel it is a great insult to Telangana people when Seemandhra employees protest in the Secretariat in Hyderabad against Telangana, he says.
Seemandhra employees are as determined to fight tooth and nail to scuttle Telangana. U Muralikrishna,Assistant Section Officer,Panchayati Raj Department,has been busy since September 1. His task once he arrives at the Secretariat is to organise Seemandhra employees to join the protest for the day.
Often seen at the main gate or at the protest venue at the Nalla Pochamma temple,Muralikrishna is a member of the Andhra Pradesh Non-Gazetted Officers Association.
We are not against the Telangana employees. We are protesting against the way the state has been divided without considering the concerns of Seemandhra, says Muralikrishna. Incidents of confrontation cannot be avoided.
Located next to the Hussain Sagar Lake,the Andhra Secretariat was built in phases,starting 1888,during the sixth Nizams rule,says former executive engineer of Roads & Buildings Department Hanumantha Rao. The original building is not in use anymore.
Rao believes that at the root of the tension is the fact that representation of employees from different regions has been skewed. Ninety to 98 per cent of the senior officers are from Seemandhra and this weighed heavily on the minds of the Telangana people, he says.
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