Odishatv Bureau

Koraput: Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Monday threw weight behind Odisha's claim on Kotia village which has remained a bone of contention between the State and neighbouring Andhra Pradesh since long.

Besides Kotia, the Union Minister also raked up the issue of gang rape and suicide of Kunduli girl and condemned the attempts by Crime Branch and Odisha government to throttle media in the garb of investigation.

"Kotia is an inseparable part of Odisha and will continue to remain so. Odisha is united on the issue and Andhra Pradesh will not be successful in its attempt to claim rights over it," said Pradhan.

Pradhan claimed that it is the responsibility of the Union as well as Government of Odisha to ensure all-round development of Kotia which is deprived of basic facilities.

As a cluster of around 21 villages of Kotia gram panchayat are located on Andhra-Odisha border, the neighbouring state has been trying to intrude.

Odisha had earlier expressed its resentment and lodged protest after Andhra Pradesh government officials distributed freebies and money to the tribes in the area.

Pradhan, who visited the Kotia village along with several BJP leaders, today claimed that already Koraput has been included in Centre's ambitious aspirational district scheme.

"We will submit a detailed report to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is personally monitoring the developmental works in the 115 districts of the country which have been identified under the programme," the Union minister said.

Pradhan, who also met the family of the deceased Kunduli girl, took a dig at Odisha government over the tardy progress of investigation into the gang rape and her subsequent suicide and demanded for a CBI probe into the incident.

He also condemned the attempts of Crime Branch officials to muzzle media by harassing journalists of OTV who brought discrepancies in the State Forensic Science Laboratory report to fore.

"Even six months after the incident, Odisha government has failed to provide justice and nab the miscreants involved in the incident. The family's demand for CBI probe has also been overlooked," said Pradhan.

On Pradhan's allegations, BJD leader Samir Dash stated that "Crime Branch inquiry is on and judicial probe has also been ordered. But it is a dead case as of now. But the real facts will be known after investigation concludes."

BJD also questioned Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan's visit and Centre's concern over Kotia at a time when the State government has undertaken developmental works here.

"The Revenue department was under BJP from 2000 to 2009 but such keenness for development was missing. The Centre is now worried for Kotia only after its ties with Andhra Pradesh ended," said Odisha Revenue Minister Maheswar Mohanty.