Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Wednesday sought Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy’s urgent intervention to hold bilateral talks with neighbouring Odisha for an amicable resolution of the border disputes between the two states.
In a letter to Mr Reddy, the Union Education Minister suggested measures, such as withdrawal of cases, retreat of armed police forces, and putting on hold non-essential structural construction in the disputed areas, to create a conducive environment for talks.
The skirmishes, which started in the 20-odd villages in Kotia gram panchayat in Pottangi block of Odisha’s Koraput district, have now spread to other border villages in Gajapati, the BJP leader said.
There have been several incidents of standoffs in Kotia in the past few months. Andhra Pradesh had recently announced the results of the panchayat polls it held in Kotia.
Last month, the Odisha government deployed police and erected barricades at Kotia after the Andhra Pradesh administration attempted to launch several schemes in the area claimed by both states.
“In the interests of the residents of both Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, I seek your (Mr Reddy’s) urgent personal intervention for a conducive and mutually-agreeable resolution of the matter,” the BJP leader wrote in the letter.
Describing it as a matter of serious concern, Mr Pradhan said such disputes have the potential to derail ongoing developmental initiatives, which have gone a long way in mitigating the threats arising from left-wing extremism in the border villages of the two states.
The Rajya Sabha MP termed the present volatile situation “extremely unfortunate”, adding that it posed a threat to the security situation and could nullify the peace dividends, which have accrued over the years in these areas.
“Situations like these would only fuel mistrust and prop up divisive forces to work against the socio-political and economic interests of both the states,” he said.
The dispute over the ownership of 21 of the 28 villages under Kotia panchayat had first reached the Supreme Court in 1968. In 2006, the Supreme Court held that inter-state boundaries did not fall within its jurisdiction and only the Parliament could resolve them, as it imposed a permanent injunction on the disputed area.
In view of the flared-up situation on the ground, Mr Pradhan urged Mr Reddy to consider some measures to build an enabling environment to facilitate talks between the states.
These include retreat of armed police forces from the disputed villages and immediate withdrawal of police cases lodged in both the states against local representatives and government officials.
“Except for essential public utility facilities of rural infrastructure, health, education and basic amenities, new structural construction and earth-moving activities be put on hold as these actions have led to ongoing altercations,” Mr Pradhan advised Mr Reddy.
The Union minister stressed on bilateral discussions between chief ministers of the two states to lay the broad parameters of a future roadmap to address the issues, besides joint-working-group talks at the level of chief secretaries or development commissioners.
“As an Odia, it pains me to see the distress and suffering of the people of Koraput and Gajapati,” Mr Pradhan said.
“On behalf of the Union government and in my personal capacity, I assure you of my support and availability in facilitating an amicable environment for bilateral talks and peaceful resolution of the dispute,” he added.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)