The inter-State dispute over the jurisdiction of 21 of the 28 Kotia group of villages on the Andhra Pradesh-Odisha border took a new twist on Monday with Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan visiting the region and promising the tribal residents justice.
Mr. Pradhan told the villagers living in the hilltop areas that he would hold a discussion with the Odisha Government to iron out the differences with Andhra Pradesh. On arrival, he was given certain documents by former Koraput Collector and convener of Amo Kotia Sanghathan Gadadhar Parida to substantiate the claim of Odisha.
Before leaving for Kotia from Visakhapatnam, Mr. Pradhan told The Hindu that based on genuine claims, the controversy surrounding the villages would be sorted out.
In all, 5,500 tribal people living in the villages are facing an identity crisis with both Odisha and Andhra Pradesh claiming jurisdiction over them since 1956 and vying with one another to extend various benefits.
The villages are located about 30-km from Narayanpatna, which is a hotbed for the Left Wing Extremists.
One can reach the villages from Neredavalasa in Sarakka panchayat of Andhra Pradesh or Sunki of Odisha.
The villages are shown as part of the Salur Assembly segment and Araku Parliamentary Constituency by Andhra Pradesh and Pottangi Assembly segment and Koraput Parliamentary Constituency by Odisha.
Interestingly, the villages have two sarpanches. Biswanath Khila represents Odisha and Bisu Gemel is the elected sarpanch from Kotia representing Andhra Pradesh.
Mr. Parida said, in the maps prepared in 1945, the Kotia gram panchayat had been shown as part of Odisha and the claim of Andhra Pradesh was not genuine.
Odisha BJP leader Jayaram Pangi said both the Centre and Odisha should take action to resolve the impasse.