BERHMAPUR: Months after raising a political storm by conducting rural polls in bordering villages of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh (AP) seems to be once again overstepping territorial authority by taking advantage of the administrative apathy in inaccessible areas. In Odisha's Gajapati district, it is allegedly tapping local resentment by repairing defunct projects catering to villagers.
If sources are to be believed, AP officials have engaged labourers and contractors to repair a minor irrigation (MI) point at Jangalpadu village under Gosani block of the district. Since the repair will supply water to the village, people hailed the work by the neighbouring state.
Odisha government had signed up an agreement with neighbouring AP over harnessing water for irrigation from Mahendratanaya river, about two decades back. As per the agreement, the MI projects were to cater to the district’s villages on Odisha-AP border and expenses shared by both the states.
Accordingly, Odisha government constructed as many 17 MI points over tributaries of the Mahendratanaya river in border areas of the district. From here, water is being released through canals to areas on both sides of the border. These MI points irrigate over 500 hectare (ha) of Odisha land in Gajapati while catering to hundreds of ha in neighbouring AP.
However, the Odisha government has reportedly been neglecting the state of affairs in the bordering villages, which AP is capitalising on. As per the agreement, Gajapati irrigation officials should raise bills and send it to AP for the MI project maintenance. But this too is not being done since officials are neither visiting nor overseeing the state of projects here. Of the 17 border MI points, most were damaged post Titli. But while AP officials are taking up repair work, their Odisha counterparts have not been as prompt.
Villagers in Gajapati alleged that they face problems before kharif season but despite repeated appeals, the administration has done very little. Dibakar Jena, a farmer of Jangalpadu, said MI projects were set up to irrigate land two decades back but most are lying defunct due to apathy of Odisha government.
“Rather AP authorities are initiating repair works every year which is benefitting villagers of both the states,” he said. Contacted, Gajapati Collector Anupam Saha said the administration is unaware of the issue. “Authorities concerned have been asked to visit the points and initiate necessary measures on war-footing,” he said.
Similarly, in Rayagada block of the district, AP has made similar endeavours by renovating a pond in Champapur village under MGNREGS, claiming the area its own since June 17. On getting the information, tehsildar Lilabati Acharya accompanied by BDO RR Bal and other revenue staff reached the spot and confronted the AP staff. The work was stopped after the latter failed to furnish relevant documents.