Vikash Sharma

Bhubaneswar: Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has urged Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to seek the support of the Central Government in mediating a resolution of the boundary disputes between Odisha and its neighbouring States.

In a letter to Patnaik, the Union Minister has also requested him to convene an all-party meeting, with due participation and inputs from Odisha's intelligentsia and civil society, to discuss the border disputes with neighbouring States.

“It is essential that we collectively arrive at a comprehensive and long-term solution for these conflicts and therefore, I also request your initiation for forming a House Committee in the Odisha Legislative Assembly comprising members from different parties for undertaking a detailed study of these issues and presenting their learned findings along with their recommendations,” wrote Pradhan.

Pradhan’s request assumes significance in the backdrop of the tensions which flared up once again along the Odisha - Andhra Pradesh border at Pottangi Block in Koraput District.

The unilateral demarcation claiming certain portions of the Sunabeda Mouza under Sambai -- Panchayat and digging of a pond in the village of Talaganjei padar by officials of the Andhra Pradesh administration triggered a fresh dispute and the move was found unacceptable to Odisha.

The entire matter has escalated and it even led to blockage of Pottangi-Arku road by villagers on the Andhra Pradesh side.

This comes a few months after a dispute along the Odisha -West Bengal border in Jaleswar Block of Balasore District due to unilateral sand mining by West Bengal on the Subarnarekha river bed.
In his letter, Pradhan said that it is prudent to arrive at an effective and comprehensive resolution of on-going and long standing border disputes with all its neighboring States, i.e. Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, through bilateral discussions.

“In the spirit of cooperative federalism and brotherhood between States, I believe Odisha should take the lead in initiating these discussions. However, it must be ensured that socio-economic interest of the people of Odisha is not compromised in any way and if necessary, the State should also consider legal remedies for resolution of these disputes,” the letter read.

Fourteen out of Odisha's 30 districts share borders with Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Odisha has a long history of border and water disputes with all these neighboring States owing to historical, cartographic and geological reasons.

The creation of the State of Odisha has seen a long and arduous journey crossing many milestones. It is important to note that while best efforts were made in the drawing of Orissa province (State) boundaries on linguistic basis, there existed many majority Oriya (Odia) speaking villages outside the boundary in the then provinces of Madras, Bihar and Bengal, Pradhan wrote.

“During the second phase of Odisha's formation, beginning after the Indian Independence, 27 princely States or Garhjats, including Koraput, joined the State of Odisha with the last one being Mayurbhanj in 1951. Over the next five decades in Independent India, the State of Andhra Pradesh was formed in 1956 and the States of Jharkhand & Chhattisgarh were created in 2000, all of whose boundaries passed through previously disputed territories with Odisha,” wrote Pradhan.

(Edited By Devbrat Patnaik)