HYDERABAD, India — Millions of people were without power in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh Tuesday as electricity workers closed down power plants to protest a decision to divide the state in two.
Widespread power outages paralyzed life across the state after workers at state-run and private power companies were shut by utility employees opposed to the federal government's decision to carve out a new state of Telangana from 10 districts of Andhra Pradesh.
Cellular phone service was down across much of the state, while more than 50 trains were canceled. Hospital and emergency services were running on generators Tuesday.
The state has been rocked by violent protests after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Congress party government announced last week its decision to go ahead with the division of the state. Hundreds of thousands of government employees opposed to the division are on strike.
Opponents are mostly from what would be the left-over part of Andhra Pradesh. They fear that tax revenues from the new state would go mostly to Telangana as much of the industry in the state is located around the city of Hyderabad, India's sixth-largest and a major IT hub, which would be in the future new state.
They are also worried about potential disputes over the sharing of river water and budget allocation.
Chief Minister Kiran Reddy, Andhra Pradesh's top elected official, has urged Singh to scrap the decision to divide the state and hold talks to resolve the crisis.
The split — if it happens — is still a ways off. The proposal on creating Telangana must be approved by the Andhra Pradesh state assembly and passed by both houses of Parliament before it will come into existence.
On Tuesday, police clamped a 24-hour curfew on the town of Vijayanagaram indefinitely after opponents of the new state attacked the homes and businesses of Congress party leaders. Protesters blocked traffic on the main highway by placing burning tires on the road.
Police have orders to shoot anyone who defies the curfew, which authorities planned to lift for a couple hours later Tuesday so residents could stock up on food and other essentials.
On Monday, four ministers from Andhra Pradesh in Singh's Cabinet offered their resignation to the prime minister to underscore their opposition to the division of the state. Singh has not accepted their resignations.
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