Andhra-Odisha border dispute: Dharmendra urges Jagan Reddy to hold bilateral talks

Bhubaneswar: Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Wednesday sought Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s intervention to hold bilateral talks with neighbouring Odisha for an amicable resolution of the border disputes between the two states.

In a letter to Reddy, Pradhan requested to hold bilateral discussion with his Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik to lay the broad parameters of future roadmap to address the border dispute issue between the two states.

The Union 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.

These skirmishes which started in the 20 odd villages in Kotia Gram Panchayat in Pottangi Block of Koraput District have unfortunately now spread to other border villages in Gajapati district, said Pradhan.

“These run-ins fuel inter-state border disputes and is a matter of serious concern. Such disputes pose a threat both to the security as well as developmental aspirations of villagers located in border villages in the states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh,” the Minister informed.

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 (Reddy’s) urgent personal intervention for a conducive and mutually-agreeable resolution of the matter,” Pradhan said.

Describing it as a matter of serious concern, 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.

“I am sure you would appreciate that settling boundary issues are time-consuming and require intense parleys coupled with involvement of a mature political leadership at the highest levels, based on mutual trust and cooperation between states. There is a need for building an enabling environment to facilitate talks between the states in view of the flared-up situation on ground,” he said.

Pradhan urged Reddy to create a conducive environment for talks between the states by withdrawing armed police forces in the disputed villages and immediate withdrawal of cases registered against local representatives and government officials registered with police in both the states.

“Except for essential public utility facilities of rural infrastructure, health, education and basic civic amenities, new structural construction and earth moving activities be put on hold, as these actions have led to the ongoing altercations,” Pradhan stated.

”As an Odia, it pains me to see the distress and suffering of the people of Koraput and Gajapati,” 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.