"Assurance needed from the Centre and parties in Seemandhra to keep State united"

Talks between Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy and 35 employees’ associations led by the Andhra Pradesh Non-Gazetted Officers’ (APNGO) Association here on Wednesday, failed after the employees asserted they would not call off their strike without a clear assurance from the Centre on keeping Andhra Pradesh united.

There was one positive outcome of the talks following the Chief Minister’s appeal to the protesters to call off their strike in view of the cyclone threat to north coastal Andhra by October 12. The employees assured Mr. Reddy that they would take up relief and rehabilitation measures if the cyclone struck the State, even while continuing their strike.

They said all emergency medical services and other essential services were being attended to, despite the indefinite strike.

During their three-hour-long talk with the Chief Minister, leaders of the employees’ associations of revenue, medical and health, municipal, panchayat raj and treasury departments, besides the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation and teachers, emphasised on the need to keep the State united, and asked Mr. Reddy how he proposed to address their concerns.

The Chief Minister said the government was making all efforts– political and administrative– and he, too, was making an effort in his personal capacity, to keep the State united. He said employees should call off their strike in view of hardships caused to common people and lower cadre employees who had gone without salaries for two months.

Ministers Anan Ramanarayana Reddy, Raghuveera Reddy, Pithani Satyanarayana, Kondru Murali and Chief Secretary P.K. Mohanty participated in the talks.

APNGOA president P. Ashok Babu told journalists that they respected the Chief Minister’s sincerity in resolving their demand for a united State. However, the associations wanted a concrete assurance on how the Centre proposed to address employees’ concerns, particularly Article 371(D), unique to the State of Andhra Pradesh, which protects interests of employees in all zones. It wanted a political assurance from the Centre as well as from all political parties in Seemandhra to keep the State united.

“The Chief Minister’s assurance alone will not help,” Mr. Babu said.

The associations will meet again on October 11 or 12 to decide what assurances they will be seeking from the Centre. They requested the Chief Minister to provide the guidelines issued by the Union Home Ministry to address employees’ concerns by then.

Mr. Babu said Mr. Reddy assured them that all the ruling party members from Seemandhra would oppose the Telangana resolution in the Assembly.