Odisha's Border Disputes
● Recently, the border disputes between Odisha and Andhra Pradesh heated up once again after the latter announced panchayat polls in three villages of Kotia panchayat in the Koraput district.
● However, Andhra Pradesh held panchayat elections in three villages in the Kotia cluster, which is at the centre of a dispute between Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
1. Why do some states have border disputes with neighbouring states? What are its implications on inter-state relations in India?
● The villages: These villages, with a population of nearly 5,000, are located on a remote hilltop on the inter-state border and are inhabited by Kondh tribals. The region, once a Maoist hotbed that still reports sporadic incidents of violence, is also rich in mineral resources like gold, platinum, manganese, bauxite, graphite and limestone.
● The dispute: Prior to April 1, 1936, villages under Kotia panchayat were part of Jeypore Estate. In the Constitution of Orissa Order, 1936, published in the Gazette of India on March 19 that year, the Government of India demarcated Odisha from the erstwhile Madras Presidency with the latter including the present-day Andhra Pradesh.
● In 1942, the Madras government contested the boundary and ordered the re-demarcation of the two states. In a joint survey of Odisha, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, seven villages of Kotia gram panchayat were recorded as revenue villages and revenue was collected by the Odisha government, but the exercise left out the 21 villages now under dispute.
● When the state of Andhra Pradesh was created in 1955, the villages were not surveyed by the Andhra Pradesh government either.
● In both worlds: This is the first time Andhra has held panchayat polls in any of these villages. But the villages participate in Assembly and Lok Sabha elections for both states. They are registered as voters for Salur Assembly and Araku Lok Sabha seats of Andhra, and Pottangi Assembly and Koraput Lok Sabha seats of Odisha.
● The villagers enjoy benefits from both states under various schemes. For instance, Odisha constructed a gram panchayat office, a village agricultural centre, the office of an agricultural overseer, a boarding school, and a 380-bed hostel; it has also implemented MGNREGA and distributed BPL cards to over 800 families and job cards to 1800 families.
● The Andhra Pradesh government has built roads, supplied electricity and provided rations to BPL families.
● Current status: In the early 1980s, Odisha filed a case in the Supreme Court demanding the right and possession of jurisdiction over the 21 villages. In 2006 however, the court ruled that since disputes belonging to the state boundaries are not within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the matter can only be resolved by Parliament and passed a permanent injunction on the disputed area.
● A day after Andhra notified the panchayat elections here, Odisha Chief Minister inaugurated projects worth Rs 18 crore. The Odisha government moved the Supreme Court.
Odisha’s dispute with the neighbouring state:
● Odisha continues to have unresolved border disputes with four neighbouring States in its eight out of 30 districts even decades after Independence.
● Dialogues to resolve disputes with Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand were in different stages and efforts were on to find permanent solutions.
● Fourteen of the 30 districts share borders with Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Except for disputes over Kotia villages in the Koraput district bordering Andhra Pradesh, there is no major border conflict.
● Odisha has a long history of disputes with Andhra Pradesh which shares a border with the State in five districts — Koraput, Malkangiri, Rayagada, Gajapati and Ganjam.
Inter-State political disputes are best solved through political dialogue and political will. There is need to use the available mechanism of Inter-State Council to solve such lingering issues.