Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, during his visit to the controversial Kotia village cluster in Koraput on the occasion of Utkal Dibasa, directed Andhra Pradesh officials present on the spot to ‘go back’ saying that Kotia belongs to Odisha only. 

However, the ruling BJD in Odisha slammed the Centre and the minister for their indifferent attitude towards the border dispute with Andhra over border villages in Kotia.

As per reports, Pradhan along with six BJP MLAs visited Phatusineri area of Kotia Gram Panchayat on Saturday to attend an event on Utkal Dibasa. Pradhan expressed his pleasure following the visit to Kotia.

“Kotia is situated in Odisha’s border area. I am very much pleased to visit the area. I met the villagers and initiated discussions with them. I also visited various projects being undertaken in the area. I bought some strawberries, which were delicious. I also visited Lord Jagannath’s temple in Kotia,” said Pradhan during his visit.

“I met the BSNL officials and came to know from them that only two to four villages are getting BSNL connectivity in the area. The officials told me that the connection will be extended to more than 15 villages in the Gram Panchayat soon,” he added.

When Pradhan saw some administrative officials and police personnel from Andhra Pradesh in the area, he asked them about their visit. The officials said that 21 villages in Kotia belong to Andhra Pradesh. But the minister told them frankly that Kotia belongs to Odisha only. He then asked the officials to go back by giving the slogan ‘Andhra go back’ along with his supporters.

Then addressing a meeting in the village, Dharmendra said he will start an initiative for the students in Koraput district by introducing Kui language following a discussion with the Vice-Chancellor of the Central University of Odisha.

On the other hand, the ruling BJD also flexed its political muscle by celebrating Utkal Dibasa in the nearby village Ganjeipadar in Kotia area. Many BJD leaders including Pottangi MLA Pritam Padhi and senior leader Rabi Nanda joined a public meeting. They slammed the centre and minister Pradhan for their indifferent attitude towards Kotia dispute.

“Kotia is part of Odisha. Had the Centre and the Prime Minister announced it in a constitutional way, there would not have been any dispute,” said Nanda.

“The Union government is not at all concerned about the Kotia controversy. Otherwise, it would have intervened in the matter. Union Ministers in Odisha including Dharmendra Pradhan have never considered the Kotia issue seriously,” said BJD leader, Pradeep Majhi.

On the other hand, responding to the allegations by BJD leaders, Dharmendra said, “It’s not a day to criticize, rather it’s a day to take a pledge. Let’s be proud of Odisha and the Odia language.”