Shutdown cripples Andhra Pradesh
Road transport services in Andhra Pradesh came to a halt as the opposition-sponsored daylong shutdown to protest the steep hike in petrol prices evoked wide response across the state.
The shutdown was partial in Hyderabad but was near total in the districts. Buses of state-run Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) and auto-rickshaws went off the roads while shops, petrol bunks, business establishments and educational institutions remained closed.
Police said the protest has been peaceful.
The nationwide shutdown has been called by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as well as the Left parties.
In Andhra Pradesh, the main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and YSR Congress Party were also supporting the shutdown to demand rollback of the petrol price hike.
In a rare show of unity, political rivals joined hands to protest the price hike. At many places, workers of the BJP, TDP, CPI and CPI-M were seen together stopping buses or staging road blockades.
Majority of the APSRTC buses remained confined to depots as the protestors did not allow authorities to take them out. They sat in front of the depots since early morning. Holding their party flags and raising anti-government slogans, they laid siege to the depots.
The shutdown was partial in Hyderabad as APSRTC was running most of the city buses with police protection. Shops and petrol bunks were also open in many places.
At the Mahatma Gandhi Bus Station in Hyderabad, police arrested CPI-M leader P. Madhu and dozens of other party activists for trying to stop the buses. Though police claimed that the buses were plying normally, services were affected because of the total impact of the strike in districts.
Police arrested dozens of leaders and workers of opposition parties for staging protests at bus depots and for blocking the roads. In Khammam, protestors damaged a bus. At few places, they deflated the tyres of buses and auto-rickshaws.
Except the ruling Congress party, the activists of all parties blocked a highway in Kadapa district, leading to massive traffic jam. The opposition parties took out rallies and staged protests in Kadapa, Anantapur, Tirupati and other parts of Rayalaseema region.
In coastal Andhra, the shutdown evoked good response with the TDP and Left activists not allowing buses to leave the depots. The shutdown paralysed transport services in coastal city of Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Guntur and other towns. Shops and business establishments also remained closed in most of the towns in the region.
With the TRS also joining the protest in Telangana, the shutdown was total in the region, except in Hyderabad.
The protest in Andhra Pradesh is significant as the petrol price in the state is one of the highest in the country. The state levies 33 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on petroleum products, the highest in the country.