Every Monday morning for the past two years, Raj* has been dropping off Simran* at the Secunderabad Railway Station in Hyderabad. She has to board the 5:30 am Vijayawada-bound Intercity Express, also known as the government employees special train to reach her office where she works as a superintendent with an Andhra Pradesh-owned corporation.
As she boards the train Raj recalls watching Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge with Simran in the theatre in 1995. Little did he know then that they would be playing out a scene from that movie after 26 years of their marriage.
Simran glances back towards Raj, but he does not give her the hug she is expecting, recalls the 53-year-old. â€śWe are both over 50 years old now, it would have been awkward,â€ť she giggles.
The train departs to Vijayawada, it would be another week before the couple meets again.
On June 2, 2014 when Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh, the families of over 757 state government employees were torn apart.
Simran is one among the 132 erstwhile Andhra Pradesh government employees, who has filed cases with the Hyderabad High Court against the bifurcation of employees based on their nativity. All 132 cases have one thing in common, one of the spouses has a non-transferable government job. Another 35 cases were with the Andhra Pradesh Administrative Tribunal, but these cases are also now with the High Court.
Interestingly, most of the 132 state government employees, who have filed cases are women. They are employed across the 231 state government-owned corporations and institutions that are part of the 9th (89) and 10th (142) schedule of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act 2014.
Why mostly women?
â€śThe bifurcation has impacted the lives mostly of women, whose husbands are central government employees working with DRDO, RCIL and other central government jobs in Hyderabad. These are non-transferable jobs and it is not possible to move to Andhra Pradesh on deputation as there are no central government institutions there, all are located here in Hyderabad,â€ť explains Raj, who also has a central government job.
â€śIf both the spouses are state government employee they can both choose to get transferred to Andhra Pradesh. If the husband is from Andhra Pradesh and gets a transfer then the wife too moves with him, the wife could either be a housewife or working in the private sector. But this is not possible if one of the spouses is a central government employee, so in most of the cases that has been filed it is a woman who has to travel,â€ť he points out.
For Simran, shuttling between the two states has impacted her physical and mental health, but what bothers her most is that her family is not united.
â€śFor the past one year, I got barely eight days to be with my son who studies in Bengaluru, Raj has a non-transferable job with the central government in Hyderabad. For all of our married life we have never been apart from each other. Now my family is split between three states, and we communicate just over the phone,â€ť sighs Simran.
She has been living out of a suitcase, staying with one relative for a few months and then staying with another for another few months. â€śThis has taken a toll on my health, my blood pressure has gone up, my cervical spondylitis has worsened. A colleague of mine who is also facing the same issue as myself, passed away a few months ago due to a heart attack. She was alone in her government quarters at the time. There was no one around to get her medical attention. That could happen to me as well, we were in the same age group,â€ť she says fearfully.
Mohammad Aslam*, a scientist with a central government organisation, has for the past two years been actively trying to bring together spouses who have been forced to live separately due to the bifurcation of the two Telugu states. These days he spends his time at a cancer ward waiting for his wifeâ€™s health to improve.
Raziya*, his wife, was diagnosed with cancer on the day she was recently deputed to Telangana.
â€śThe doctor says the cancer has been growing in her for the past two years, my wife has been shuttling between the two states for 14 months. She hardly gets time to even be with our daughter, let alone go for periodical medical check-ups. She used to travel by bus but the buses never used to stop for toilet breaks and the she has to hold her urge to pass urine until they reach the destination. She has been in the ICU for the past couple of days,â€ť says Aslam.
Raziyaâ€™s deputation to Telangana is not permanent, and is for three years. Aslam observes, â€śIf the state governments do not resolve the criteria for employee bifurcation, after three years she will have to again resume shuttling between the two states every weekend.â€ť
All the women TNM spoke to say there are facing health issues due to their weekly journeys between the two states. â€śThe train toilets are dirty and it gave me a bad case of skin infection. The buses initially never used to stop for loo breaks. They now stop after a lot of us made requests with travel agencies, but again the toilets are too unhygienic,â€ť Simran points out.
The families have been bearing the economic brunt of the bifurcation in the form of lawyer fees. Raj has spent about Rs 1.5 lakhs on lawyer fees, Mohammad has spent close to Rs 60,000. â€śEvery month I spend close to Rs 5,600 in travel expenses but without reimbursement,â€ť says Simran, who had to ditch the employeeâ€™s train as it was never on time for her to reach office to mark her biometric attendance. â€śIf am late for three consecutive days there is a pay cut and my casual leaves will be curtailed,â€ť she notes.
It's been close to five years since the states bifurcated but neither government has been able to reach a consensus on how to bifurcate their assets nor their employees.
While Andhra Pradesh insists that the employees should be divided based on the population ratio of 58:42, the Telangana government insists on nativity. The central government appointed Sheela Bhide Committee has been tasked with the bifurcation of 89 institutions and corporations listed but has left the decision making powers on the fate of employees and assets to the managing directors of these corporations from their respective states.
"Itâ€™s easy for state government employees from Telangana to move to Andhra Pradesh but the Telangana government does not accept Andhra Pradesh people but they do hire people from other states on deputation," says Radhika*, who works with the AP Chief Ministerâ€™s Office. Her husband is a scientist with one of the central government-run research institutions in Hyderabad, a non-transferable job.
Radhika says, "Nativity wise, I am from Andhra Pradesh and my husband is from Telangana but at the time of getting married little did we know that our nativity would be a criterion for our separation.â€ť