Tirupati: A month after the Telangana statehood was announced, the anti-statehood protests are still on. While this had earlier affected the temple town of Tirupati with a 10 to 15 per cent drop in the number of pilgrims, the situation is now improving with the devotees returning in thousands to the Tirupati shrine.
Small protests and road blocks are what one encounters while driving to Tirupati. A month since the Telangana announcement, such things have now become an everyday affair. The anger on the ground is now slowly giving way to fatigue.
"This separation is only to gain votes and seats. The Congress party has done this for their own political gain. We will strengthen our movement. The division of Andhra Pradesh will not happen" said a protester.
Inside Tirupati, life seems normal after a two-day total shutdown. Shops have reopened and public transport has started plying again.
But the traders seem to disagree. "Two days it's bandh and then one day relaxation. If you see in the media, it said Tirumala was empty and suddenly lakhs and lakhs of people came here. But it's not correct as again after two or three days it will change. I have seen so many people sitting outside hotels not getting food properly. Even autos and taxis aren't running," said Tirupati Chamber of Commerce President KN Balaji.
Hoteliers in Tirupati claim huge losses because of these continuous protests. "We have lost around 90 per cent of our business. If we have 120 rooms, we are running at just 5 rooms," said Bhimas Hotels Ltd Director KR Venkatachalam.
With the pilgrims returning to Tirumala by the thousands, the situation is certainly improving. But the regular bandhs and the often held protests seem to have created an impression that the temple town is not as welcoming as it used to be.