Opposition parties in Andhra Pradesh have decided to go ahead with their statewide shutdown on April 9 despite the government providing some relief from the steep hike in electricity tariff announced last week.
Bowing to pressure from the opposition and also a section of its own leaders, the Congress government exempted consumers using 200 units or less a month from the tariff hike.
However, the latest relief from the government has failed to pacify the opposition parties, who are determined to go ahead with the shutdown.
The Left parties have called for the strike and this is being supported by main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP), YSR Congress Party and other opposition parties. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had also given a separate call for a shutdown.
TDP leader M. Narasimhulu said their protest would continue till the government completely rolled back the hike and ensured seven-hour supply to the agriculture sector. He also wanted the government to come to the rescue of small and medium industries facing the brunt of the shortage and also the hike in tariff.
Meanwhile, YSR Congress party honorary president Y.S. Vijayamma and other party leaders continued their indefinite hunger strike in Hyderabad. She appealed to people to make the shutdown a success.
On the fourth day of the hunger strike, the condition of some of the leaders started deteriorating. Police are likely to forcibly shift them to hospital as they have done in the case of striking leaders of the Left parties, TDP and BJP in the last 10 days.
Thursday night, Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy made an announcement that would offer some relief to 2.16 crore of 2.55 crore consumers of electricity in the state.
The government will absorb the hike by paying a subsidy of Rs.830 crore to power distribution companies.
This is in addition to the Rs.5,480 crore subsidy it would be paying during 2013-14 as per the tariff order issued by the Andhra Pradesh Electricity Regulatory Commission (APERC).
The APERC on March 30 had approved the hike for all categories, placing a burden of Rs.6,173 crore on the consumers.
It had exempted consumers using 50 units from the hike.
The chief minister's announcement has cut down the burden to Rs.5,343 crore. He also said distribution companies would not seek any more fuel surcharge adjustment (FSA) charges for this year.
The distribution companies have been collecting FSA charges from time to time for the electricity purchased from outside the state to meet the demand.
The state is facing a massive electricity crisis with a huge jump in demand, shortage of gas and fall in the production at hydro-electric stations due to insufficient rains.