Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has urged Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to take steps for resolution of long-standing border disputes with neighbouring states including Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal
through bilateral talks without compromising Odisha's socio-economic interests.
In a letter to Naveen Patnaik, the Petroleum and Steel Minister also urged him to seek the support of the Central government in mediating a resolution between Odisha and its neighbouring states for boundary disputes and convene an all-party meeting to discuss the issue, apart from considering legal remedies, if necessary.
Dharmendra Pradhan's suggestion comes in the wake of tensions flared up recently along the Odisha-Andhra Pradesh border in Pottangi block of Koraput district. It is understood that the unilateral demarcation claiming certain portions of Sunabeda Mouza under Sambai Panchayat and digging of a pond in a village by Andhra Pradesh officials was found unacceptable to Odisha, the BJP leader said.
The matter had escalated to blockade of Pottangi-Arku road by villagers on the Andhra Pradesh side recently.
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 the neighbouring state on the Subarnarekha river bed, said Dharmendra Pradhan, who hails from Odisha.
Noting that 14 out of Odisha's 30 districts share borders with Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, the Union Minister said Odisha has a long history of border disputes with all these neighbouring states owing to historical, cartographic and geological reasons.
Taking a holistic view of the situation, it is important to shed light on the developmental issues and infrastructural challenges affecting the people living on both sides of the border such as providing connectivity and infrastructure in remote areas, ensuring implementation of key developmental programmes and jointly tackling the threat from Left Wing Extremism, he said in the letter which was released to the media.
It is also necessary to appreciate the socio-economic realities like the movement of goods and people across the border for trade and employment, which have a drastic impact on the day-to-day life of people living in these areas, Dharmendra Pradhan said.
"While borders might seem absolute on paper, they will always remain porous to the underlying societal norms, cultures, languages shared by the people on both sides," he said.
"In view of the above, it would seem prudent to arrive at an effective and comprehensive resolution of Odisha's ongoing and long-standing border disputes with all its neighbouring states, i.e. Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh, through bilateral discussions with these states," Dharmendra Pradhan said.
"In the spirit of cooperative federalism and the 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 Union Minister said.
Urging the chief minister to also convene an all-party meeting, with due participation and inputs from the intelligentsia and civil society, for discussing these border disputes, he said it is essential to collectively arrive at a comprehensive and long-term solution for these conflicts.
"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 for these issues and presenting their learned findings along with their recommendations," he said.
"Keeping in mind the sensitivity of the issue, I would also urge you to seek the support of the Central Government in mediating a resolution between Odisha and her neighbouring states for boundary disputes," Dharmendra Pradhan added.