Bill to create new Indian state passes amid protests

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's upper house of parliament Thursday passed a contentious Bill to create a new state by splitting southern Andhra Pradesh in two despite raucous protests by lawmakers opposed to the move.

The Bill to create Telangana as the 29th state was passed with the backing of the governing Congress party and the leading opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.

"The Bill is passed," said P.J. Kurien, the deputy chairman of the upper house who presided over the vote on a day that saw a series of attempts to block the passage of the bill.

The president's assent to the Bill will be the final step towards the creation of the new state, which the Congress party wanted achieved before national elections in the summer.

Lawmakers who opposed the splitting of Andhra Pradesh shouted slogans, held placards in protest and even tore copies of the Bill as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attempted to address the house.

Mr Singh, whose speech was drowned in the din, announced a six-point development package for the new divided regions of Andhra Pradesh.

Supporters have campaigned for 53 years for economically deprived Telangana, which they say has been neglected by successive state governments.

But wealthier regions of Andhra Pradesh, home to IT giants including Google and Microsoft, have strongly opposed the split which they say would create economic upheaval.

Hyderabad, the IT hub, will serve as joint capital of both states for at least the next 10 years.

Andhra Pradesh, created in 1956, was India's first state to be set up on grounds of a shared language and laid down a precedent for establishing states along linguistic lines.