Andhra slams Dharmendra’s visit to disputed region on Andhra-Odisha border

Amaravati: The Andhra Pradesh government on Sunday deplored Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan’s visit to Kotia region on the Andhra-Odisha border, stressing that the Supreme Court directive for maintaining status quo should be honoured.

Deputy Chief Minister P. Rajanna Dora found fault with the Central minister’s visit to the disputed region and his statement that Kotia cluster of villages is an integral part of Odisha.

He reminded Pradhan that he represents the entire country and should refrain himself from making such statements. “We need to obey the apex court’s order to maintain status quo till the issue is resolved,” Rajanna Dora told the media in Saluru in Parvatipuram- Manyam district.

At the time of formation of the Parvatipuram-Manyam district last year, the government had shown 21 villages in the Kotia region in the Andhra Pradesh map.

A day after Pradhan’s visit to the disputed area along with five BJP MLAs from Odisha, Parvatipuram-Manyam District Collector Nishant Kumar and Superintendent of Police Vidya Sagar Naidu were closely monitoring the situation in the Kotia region, where the government had conducted panchayat elections two years ago and took up many welfare activities.

Naidu said community policing was being accorded top priority in the region.

The Andhra Pradesh government is likely to depute a team of officials to the region to undertake more welfare activities in the villages.

During his visit to Kotia gram panchatar on Saturday on the occasion of Utkal Divas, the Odisha Formation Day, Pradhan had taken exception to the presence of Andhra Pradesh officials and drove them away.

Expressing his annoyance over the presence of Andhra Pradesh Police officials, the Union Minister asked them to leave as their presence within Odisha borders is not solicited.

“Why are you all here? The Kotia panchayat belongs to Odisha. Please go back. Go back to Andhra,” Pradhan told the Andhra Pradesh officials. He then raised the ‘Bande Utkal Janani’ slogan as locals gathered to take it to a feverish pitch forcing the two officials to beat a quick retreat.

Pradhan’s action has evoked sharp reaction from the leaders of various political parties in Andhra Pradesh.

Lok Satta Party State president B. Babji demanded the dismissal of Pradhan from the Union Cabinet as his visit to the village was in violation of the apex court ruling.

Former Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MLC D. Jagadish urged the Union government to constitute a commission immediately to find a permanent solution to the border dispute that had started in 1956.

A total of 21 tribal hamlets located in the area known as Kotia cluster of villages have been a bone of contention between Odisha and Andhra Pradesh since 1956 when Andhra Pradesh was formed.

As the boundaries of Kotia were not clearly demarcated, both the states claim jurisdiction over the region and enlist tribals as their voters and extend benefits of various government schemes.

The government of Odisha claims that these villages are a part and parcel of the Koraput district while Andhra Pradesh maintains that they are part of newly created Parvatipuram-Manyam district. Availability of rich mineral resources in the region is said to be the reason for the dispute.

Pradhan had last visited Kotia in 2018 and had written to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy in September 2021 to resolve the border dispute through talks with his counterpart in Odisha. This was followed by a meeting of the two Chief Ministers in January last year.

Though the Chief Secretaries of the two states had a virtual meeting and decided to have a joint demarcation committee to define the border areas, no progress was made.


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