BHUBANESWAR: The persisting conflict between Odisha and West Bengal over demarcation of border saw residents of Shankhamedi exercise their franchise in the panchayat election in the neighbouring State on Monday. Voters of the village in Balasore district cast their votes in West Bengal alleging that Odisha Government is doing little for their welfare.
The villagers posses voter I-cards of both the states and cast their votes during elections. The only time they refused to vote as WB citizens was in 2014 General Elections after local leaders and revenue officials promised them to look after their demands.
“We are treated as if we are in no man’s land. Since no land revenue is collected from us, we have not been included in any housing scheme,” alleged Ward member Ajay Jena. Like the dual identity cards, the villagers too come under two States on record - Shankhamedi in Odisha and Bagbrajakishore in West Bengal.
The villagers allege they suffer identity crisis since no have residential certificate is issued to them. Land revenue has not been collected since 1983 and their rights over land is refused. Despite filing several petitions urging Odisha Government to issue residential certificates, no step has been initiated yet, they allege.Not only Shankhamedi, many from Sahabajipur, Udaypur, Dakhina Sarisa and Bhatapur villages too exercised their franchise in the rural polls. Though they have been voting in both the States for over four decades, no Election Commission has taken notice of it. The villagers speak in both Odia and Bengali.
While Odisha Government has built a primary school besides a concrete road, its counterpart has built another school where Bengali-speaking children have been enrolled. Villagers do not give up the welfare benefits since they receive it from both the Governments.Balasore Collector Ramesh Chandra Rout feigned ignorance over the voting rights in two States. He, however, assured to inquire into it and take necessary action.
At least 96 villages in 10 districts of the State are at loggerheads with West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh over border disputes for several decades now.Revenue and Disaster Management Minister Maheswar Mohanty recently told the State Assembly that Odisha has border disputes with four neighbouring States for 96 villages. The State has disputes with West Bengal over six villages in Balasore and eight villages in Mayurbhanj district.
■ Odisha shares its border with West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh
■ Fate of 96 border villages in Odisha still hangs in balance
■ 14 villages in Balasore and Mayurbhanj districts have dispute with West Bengal
■ 64 villages in Koraput, Rayagada, Ganjam and Gajapati districts have disputes with Andhra Pradesh
■ 13 villages of Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Sundargarh districts share disputed borders with Jharkhand
■ Five villages of Nabarangpur and Jharsuguda districts have disputes with Chhattisgarh