Saturday, December 9, 2023

Odisha’s border disputes keep villagers on tenterhooks

By Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, June 6 (IANS)
It’s an identity crisis of sorts for thousands of villagers along Odisha’s border who are affected by the continuing territorial dispute between the state and its neighbours.

The dispute has been a boon for some, but a bane for others.

From rations to facilities under government schemes to voting rights, residents of scores of villages along the state’s border have been making the best use of this territorial confusion. They claim these entitlements from Odisha and the adjacent state — it can be Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand or West Bengal, depending on the location of the village.

But, then, there are those who are adversely impacted by the problem. As these villagers do not have any identity card to prove their domicile status, they don’t know whether they belong to Odisha or another state. As a result, these villagers cannot withdraw rations, and don’t have voting rights.

Add to that the effect on developmental activities in certain villages at the Odisha-West Bengal border. The Odisha government had to halt infrastructural projects at these villages following objections from West Bengal officials who claimed the villages are part of that state.

Odisha was carved out of the Bengal-Bihar-Odisha province on April 1, 1936, but the inter-state border disputes continue even today.

The Odisha government admitted that the boundaries of over 100 villages at the state’s border could not be determined.

According to Odisha Revenue Minister Bijayshree Routray, the state has border disputes with Andhra Pradesh over 64 villages — including 22 in Koraput district, 21 in Ganjam district, 16 in Gajapati and five in Rayagada.

He said disputes over 21 of total 22 villages in Koraput district could not be resolved as the Supreme Court has granted status quo in March, 2006.

Besides, Odisha has a border row with West Bengal over 14 villages in Balasore and Mayurbhanj districts. The disputed villages are mostly in Bhograi and Jaleswar blocks in Balasore district, said the minister.

Last year, West Bengal officials objected to construction of a marine police station by the Odisha government at the Udayapur beach, claiming that the map showed it to be within West Bengal.

Bhograi MLA and government chief whip Anant Das said: “We are in possession of the villages even though there is a dispute with West Bengal. The government is taking steps to resolve the issue.”

The state government could not determine the boundaries of a total of 13 villages in Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Sundargarh due to disputes with Jharkhand.

Similarly, the state government has border disputes with Chhattisgarh. It has dispute relating to four villages in Nabarangapur and one in Jharsuguda district.

“We are trying to resolve the issue by discussing with the officials of our neighbouring states,” said minister Routray.

MLA Prafulla Kumar Pangi of Potangi in Koraput, admitted that the villagers in the border areas get double benefits using ration cards of both Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.

“They have availed ration cards from both the Odisha government and the Andhra Pradesh government. They are availing all government benefits provided by both the governments,” said Pangi.

Sources said the border dispute between the two states has led to their inclusion in the census of both the states. As a result, the villagers are able to reap benefits using the ration cards.

(Chinmaya Dehury can be contacted at [email protected])

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