Hyderabad, Sep 19 (IANS) Road transport services in Andhra Pradesh's Telangana region came to a grinding halt Monday as employees of the state-owned Road Transport Corporation (RTC) joined the indefinite general strike for a separate Telangana state.
Over 54,000 RTC employees stayed off work and blocked state and national highways, snapping road links with other regions and also neighbouring states.
Sporadic incidents of violence marked the road blockades called by Telangana Joint Action Committee (JAC) to intensify the stir.
Protesters damaged over a dozen private vehicles in Nalgonda and Mahabubnagar districts, while hundreds of activists of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and other groups squatted on roads connecting Telangana to coastal Andhra, Rayalaseema regions and also to Karnataka and Maharashtra.
The protests, which included erecting walls on the roads and staging cultural programs, led to massive traffic jams, paralysing the movement of people and goods to and from Andhra and Rayalaseema to Hyderabad and other districts of Telangana.
About 10,000 buses went off the roads in Hyderabad and nine other districts of Telangana as RTC employees joined the strike, officials said.
The strike by government employees, teachers and workers of state-owned Singareni Collieries Company Ltd continued for the seventh day Monday, crippling the administration, closing down schools and bringing coal production to a halt.
Lawyers are also boycotting the courts while doctors in government-run hospitals are staging protests for a separate state. Electricity department's employees have also joined the strike by not collecting the bills.
In Hyderabad, the RTC strike paralysed the city bus services. Students and office-goers had a tough time reaching their destinations.
The usually busy Mahatma Gandhi Bus Station (MGBS) wore a deserted look as all the 3,000 buses to various parts of the state were cancelled.
RTC managing director Prasada Rao said the corporation was making alternate arrangements to operate buses. "RTC will suffer Rs.7 crore loss in a single day (Monday)," he said.
Hundreds of policemen and paramilitary personnel were deployed at bus stations as the RTC management was using the services of retired drivers and ex-servicemen.
In an attempt to minimise inconvenience to people, the transport department has allowed private vehicle operators to run their services across the region. Seven-seater auto-rickshaws, which are not allowed to ply on Hyderabad city roads on normal days, are being permitted to operate.
The railways are operating additional local trains in Hyderabad and also to various destinations in the state.
"The movement has intensified and it will continue till we achieve our goal," said TRS leader Harish Rao while leading the road blockade at Kodada in Nalgonda district, blocking all vehicles coming from coastal Andhra region.
Rao warned that if the central government further delays formation of Telangana state, they would lay siege to Hyderabad next month and bring trains and even flights to a halt.
Hundreds of vehicles were stranded on Telangana-Maharashtra border in Adilabad district, Telangana-Rayalaseema border in Mahabubnagar district, Telangana-Andhra border in Nalgonda district and Telangana-Maharashtra border in Medak district.
Protesters clashed with police at several places and damaged over a dozen private vehicles. Police also arrested those blocking traffic but at most of the places, the protesters outnumbered the policemen.