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Pradhan Urges Jagan For Kotia Talks

Bhubaneswar: Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has sought personal intervention of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy for an amicable resolution of border village disputes between AP and Odisha.

In a letter to Andhra Pradesh CM, 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.

Mr.Pradhan urged Mr.Reddy to hold bilateral discussion with his Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik to lay out the broad parameters of the future roadmap to address the border dispute issue between the two states.

Terming the faceoff between Andhra Pradesh and Odisha as unfortunate, he said the skirmishes, which started in 20-odd villages under Kotia gram panchayat in Pottangi block of Koraput district, have now spread to other bordering villages in Gajapati district.

 “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,” Mr.Pradhan said in his letter.

He said settling boundary issues is time-consuming and requires 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 suggested.

 “Situations like these would only fuel mistrust and prop up devices forces to work against the socio-political and economic interests of both the states,” he said.

In view of the flared-up situation on the ground, Mr.Pradhan urged 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.

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 apex 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.

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.