One Nation One Election: Villages along disputed state border want to keep double benefits

The territory in question has a dozen villages in two gram panchayats, with a combined population of around 6,000 people

By S. Harpal Singh  Published on  18 Sep 2023 3:30 AM GMT
One Nation One Election: Villages along disputed state border want to keep double benefits

Adilabad: Unique issues have unique solutions. A live example of this is an 80 sq km area located in the desolate hilly inter-state border between Kerameri mandal of Kumuram Bheem Asifabad district in Telangana and Jivti taluk of Chandrapur district in Maharashtra.

The territory in question has a dozen villages in two gram panchayats, with a combined population of around 6,000 people. The region is at the center of a border dispute between the two neighbouring states. The area’s administration has both Telangana and Maharashtra locals, mostly Scheduled Caste community members hailing from Maharashtra.

The people in this area draw social welfare benefits from both states. The villagers hold MGNREGA job cards issued by Telangana and Maharashtra, and ration cards from both states, drawing monthly PDS rations and social welfare pensions from either side.

Their curious situation had bestowed upon the individuals a special status as voters of both states which had them participating in almost all the elections on both sides until 2018.

Seized of the general incongruity of the situation, authorities wanted the voters to choose either Telangana or Maharashtra to participate in elections. Moreover, the echo of the One Nation One Election (ONOE) concept has also found its way into the habitations which made the villagers sit up and take note, lest it deprive them of the double benefits.

“The villagers of Kota, Parandoli, Lakhmapur, Jankapur, Anarpalli and Karanjiwada in Parandoli gram panchayat and Paraswada, Anthapur, Isapur, Bolapatar, Gowri and Arkepalli (D) in Anthapur gram panchayat discussed and came up with an effectively unique solution,” recalled a lower rung functionary connected with electoral roll revision in Kerameri mandal.

“Half the family enrolled as voters in Telangana and the remaining half enrolled themselves as voters in Maharashtra,” he revealed.

The total number of voters enrolled in Parandoli, Karanjiwada, Bolapatar and Anthapur polling stations has gone down from 3,842 in 2019 to 3,023 after the revision of rolls. The other voters, including a good number of fresh voters, have apparently enrolled as voters in Maharashtra.

“Even if the ensuing elections are held under the ONOE concept we will not lose any of our benefits,” said Mahore Vittal from Anthapur, as he delved into the issue. “We are prepared for ONOE,” he stated with a sense of finality.

“The villagers were apprehensive that they could lose social welfare benefits of one state if they chose to remain as voters of the other,” explained Abdul Kalam, vice president of Kerameri Mandal Parishad. “This way, they are eligible for all the social welfare benefits, including the Rythu Bandhu and Kalyana Lakshmi schemes from Telangana,” he added.

“The Telangana government has also given pattas for forest land to Scheduled Tribes under the Forest Rights Act, 2006,” said Suryavanshi Parmeshwar, former sarpanch of Anthapur, representing Maharashtra, as he broached the subject of benefits. “There was no dispute regarding this as the Maharashtra government does not lay claim on the 100 sq km of forest in the area in question,” added Syed Mazharuddin, the forest range officer in Kerameri.

Preference to Telangana

The residents of the two gram panchayats, however, would prefer to become the subjects of Telangana, in case they are required to choose between the two states.

“Telangana has provided us drinking water through Mission Bhagiratha and we expect the Telangana government to give us pattas for our lands we have been cultivating for decades,” said Parmeshwar, giving out some strong reasons for liking Telangana.

The territory is a completely isolated place as there are hardly any motorable roads from the Kerameri side. This 80 sq km stretch is also not connected by any mobile network. The villages have been governed by Maharashtra since the formation of states in the country.

In 1989, the first polling stations were set up here by authorities from Andhra Pradesh (Telangana was part of AP till 2014). Maharashtra objected to it, but the voters came to be registered in both states.

In 1999 the High Court of AP ruled the villages to be part of AP state. Maharashtra subsequently appealed in the Supreme Court where the dispute is pending.

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