JV Ramana Reddy, 50, a driver who works for Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation and is based in Visakhapatnam, has two college-going sons and a daughter. Under the impact of the anti-Telangana agitation, in which he is taking part, he has had to fall back on tuition fees, not paid rent for a month, and has run up a debt of Rs. 60,000 over the past two months.
He is among the state-owned transport corporation’s employees in a similar severe financial distress but fighting spiritedly the proposed bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.
Since August 12, 650,000 state government employees of Seemandhra have joined the agitation against Telangana.
“Even if we don’t get salaries for many more months, our struggle will continue,” the steely determination in Reddy’s voice inspired fellow drivers to shout slogans in approval.
What drives this bunch of low-paid employees or schoolteachers into mounting debts with moneylenders, pawning their gold or running after elusive bank loans is their concern for future generations. In many places, moneylenders are turning the situation to good account by charging exorbitant interests.
Finally, what glues the protesters is their collective anger against the politicians.
The state government, which is going soft on the striking employees and not imposing the Essential Services Maintenance Act, is under severe criticism.
In the faction-ridden badlands of Rayalaseema, the employees have not hesitated to surround the houses of politicians.
“We normally keep away from the politicians, but now the anger against the division is making us go hold their collars,” said a schoolteacher near Adoni in Kurnool district.
Complaining against Botsa Satyanarayana, president of the Andhra Pradesh Congress unit, N Sambasiva Rao, 50, a teacher at a Visakhapatnam municipal school, said: “There are Botsas everywhere — people who have ruined the state completely.”
Upputuri Muralikrishna, chairman, AP Secretariat Seemandhra Employees Forum, said: “Compared to the working-class, which is also agitating and forgoing their daily wages, we are in a better situation. We can claim money from our group insurance and as government employees can avail of bank loans. But what is really driving us forward in this movement is the conviction that the division would ruin our lives and also of our children.”