Pradeep Pattanayak

As the ensuing Panchayat elections remain the central focus of the Odisha government at present, the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh (AP) government is busy using the opportunity by including names of people living in the contentious Kotia Panchayat in Koraput district under various schemes. 

On Monday, an OTV team visited Tala Ganjeipadar village under Kotia Panchayat to cover the preparations for the Panchayat elections. The findings on ground zero left them baffled. The team noticed a group of officials from the other side of the border (AP) making rounds of the Panchayat. When confronted, without any sign of hesitation, they said they had come to the village to carry out some government work. “This area is controversial and comes under AP. So there is nothing wrong in visiting the area” was their retort.

Thereafter, the OTV team went around the village with a view to find out the ingression of AP. In the village, our team saw that the AP government has accorded a serial number to each house and put up plaques as well. 
The AP government has not only distributed land documents among the villagers but it is also providing Rs 2,250 to elderly persons towards old age pension and ration items like rice, dal, sugar and edible oil, kerosene at their door step. 

When asked, the innocent villagers said the AP government is giving them much more than what the Odisha government provides. “Towards old age pension, we are getting Rs 2,250 from the AP government and only Rs 500 from the Odisha government. Similarly, the former is giving us 35 kilograms of rice per head while we get only five kilograms of rice per head from the latter,” said a villager, implying that the Odisha government is way behind in doling out the freebies. 

Besides alluring the gullible villagers into its fold by including them under various beneficial schemes, the AP government has also constructed several projects to provide basic facilities. A drinking water project and an Anganwadi centre in Tadibalsa village are the glaring examples of AP’s ingression.

During the visit, the OTV team also came across a van carrying AP registration number. It was meant for rice distribution. 

In Dhulapadar village, the AP government is way ahead of its’ Odisha counterpart in providing benefits to the villagers. While the Odisha government’s primary school is a tin roofed dusty structure, the primary school, run by the AP government just 100 metres away, is a well built and maintained building. 

When asked about the facilities provided by the AP government and Odisha government, a villager said, “The Odisha government has set up solar-powered street light posts whereas its AP counterpart is providing us electricity free of cost. This apart, the latter has also constructed drains and laid concrete roads in our village.” 

At a time when both the states have locked horns over the border dispute, while travelling on the Phagunasineri-Phatusineri road, huge advertisement boards displaying the photo of AP Chief Minister along with the various developmental projects can also be seen by the roadside. But there is not one such board on the route put by the Odisha government to suggesting how the AP government is grabbing every opportunity to illegally violate the border in occupying Kotia and it’s people’s land.

It is not that the Odisha government is doing nothing for the people of Kotia Panchayat. It is constructing roads, schools, hospitals and Anganwadi centres. But since, the AP government is involving the people directly in the beneficial schemes, people tend to be swayed away by the temporary gimmicks.