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Having the best of two States

By S.Harpal Singh

PARAMDOLI (ADILABAD DT.), OCT. 13. While all the voters in the country are equal, but voters from these 12 territorially disputed villages on the Andhra Pradesh-Maharashtra border seem to be more equal than the others, as they get to elect an MLA and an MP in two States!

In April, the 1,200 villagers cast their votes for the Adilabad Lok Sabha seat and Khanapur Assembly segment within it and for the Chandrapur Lok Sabha seat in Maharashtra. On Wednesday, the villagers were seen queuing up at the two polling booths of Paramdoli and Anthapur while exercising their franchise in the Maharashtra Assembly elections.

Ongoing dispute

There is a running dispute between Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra who claim the villages of Paramdoli, Kota, Shankarloddi, Mukadampura, Lendijala, Maharajguda, Antapur, Bholapathar, Gowri, Lendiguda, Esapur and Padmavathi. These villages fall in Kerameri mandal of Adilabad district in AP and in Jivti taluk of Chandrapur district. Both the States simultaneously govern these villages who enjoy the best of both the worlds. After being accustomed to such privileged treatment, the villagers do not want their special status to be disturbed.

The population of the disputed villages settled in the reserve forests predominantly comprises Lambada tribals and Marathi-speaking Scheduled Castes. These people migrated from distant Nanded and Parbhani districts of the Marathwada region during the 1960s.

Proper claim

The Maharashtra Government had attempted their eviction from the reserve forests in 1973. Recalling the incidents of those days, 83-year-old Vatore Ramrao Bagaji said, "I stayed in Hyderabad for 18 days in 1973 to get a stay order on the eviction." After the stay, nobody questioned the villagers.

In 1980, Andhra Pradesh laid a proper claim on these villages and the dispute had even gone to the Supreme Court where it is reported to be pending. Since then, the 5,000-odd villagers have been demanding pattas for land they cultivate. Such land measures up to an estimated 3,000 acres. Ranga Rao Pawar wants pattas for his lands to be given by AP. "Because, AP gives us a lot of benefits," he said, pointing to some small buildings of the gram panchayat office and a few weaker section houses.

Constant fear

The disputed villages are brought into focus whenever elections are held on either side. The villagers become apprehensive about their status being altered. "I voted during the last elections and now only on the assurance given by the candidates that our status will not be changed," said Ganesh Rathod of Paramdoli thanda.

Elaborating on the issue, Tara Chand Jadhav, sarpanch of Paramdoli, said "We are treated as a nomadic tribe under Backward Classes in Maharashtra, while AP gives us the status of a Scheduled Tribe. In case our villages are included in Maharashtra we stand to lose a lot of benefits."

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