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Voting in border areas: As polls near, 14 villages divided between 2 states

In 1996, the Supreme Court directed the high court to resolve the issue within three months. Andhra Pradesh government eventually withdrew its petition.

Written by Srinath Rao | Jiwati (chandrapur) |
Updated: April 8, 2019 7:46:05 am
maharashtra, maharashtra elections, voters ID card, how to get voters card, devendra fadnavis, elections commision, Lok Sabha Elections 2019, elections 2019, general elections 2019, elections news, decision news, indian express Some members of Madhukar Ranveer’s family have been issued Voter IDs by Maharashtra and others by Telangana

When the Election Commission announced the poll schedule last month, the decision to club parts of Maharashtra and Telangana in the first phase didn’t go down well in a bunch of villages on the border between the states.

“We did not expect that both states would go to polls on the same day. This has complicated things,” said Madhukar Ranveer, who runs a kirana store in Mukadamguda village in Jiwati taluka of Maharashtra’s Chandrapur district. Mukadamguda and 13 other villages are part of a disputed territory also included in the official map of Telangana. There are 2,960 voters in these 14 villages.

His brother, Ramdas Ranveer, a farmer with a small land, says that unless both states want a repeat of the farce of people casting votes in two polling booths, a solution must be found.

“From 2004, people here have been first casting votes in Jiwati and then in Kumaram Bheem Asifabad district in Telangana during Lok Sabha elections,” he said.

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Locally, this cluster is known as 14-and-a half villages. Maharajguda, one of hamlets, is divided between the two states. The other villages are Mukadamguda, Paramdoli, Paramdoli Tanda, Kotha, Lendijala, Shankarlodhi, Padmavati, Antapur, Indiranagar, Yesapur, Palasguda, Bholapathar and Lendiguda.

“We receive benefits from both states. Telangana gives us rice for Rs 3 a kilo and wheat for Rs 5 a kilo. Both states have also built roads,” said Rohidas Chavan (42). But the crucial benefit he cannot access from either state is farm assistance. “My house is in Telangana but my farm is in Maharashtra. Since it is in forest land, I do not own the title. So Maharashtra does not give me any loans or subsidies to purchase seeds and fertilisers. Telangana also will not help me,” he said.

Things are no different for farmers in any of the other villages, most of whom are from the Scheduled Castes. At the heart of the issue is 10,000-15,000 acres of farmland which the villagers have been technically cultivating illegally. In letters he has been sending to the Maharashtra government since 1980, Ramdas Ranveer has requested the transfer of farm plots. “When states in India were being re-organised on the basis of language in 1955-56, we were part of Maharashtra because all of us here speak Marathi. But ten years later, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh redrew their borders and we were somehow claimed by the latter state,” he explained.

That led to the villages boycotting all polls in Andhra Pradesh between 1980 and 1994. “After a point, we began to wonder how long it would make sense to keep away from voting.”

In 1995, Andhra Pradesh filed a writ petition in Hyderabad High Court, claiming the disputed villages as its territory. In reply, the Maharashtra government filed a Special Leave Petition in Supreme Court. In 1996, the Supreme Court directed the high court to resolve the issue within three months. Andhra Pradesh government eventually withdrew its petition.

The villagers say trouble resumed with the formation of Telangana in 2014. “Now Telangana has staked a claim on us in clear violation the order of the Supreme Court,” says Ranveer.

The dispute has also had its impact on voter identification cards. In Madhukar Ranveer’s family, he and his younger son hold voter cards issued by Maharashtra while another son and daughter-in-law have Telangana-issued voter cards. Candidates for both Chandrapur and Kumaram Bheem Asifabad seats hold election campaign in the villages. Archana Ranveer, Ranveer’s daughter-in-law, said that when Telangana election officials visited the village last week, they urged half the families to vote in Telangana and the other half in Maharashtra.

As for April 11, Telangana has announced measures to ensure there is no double voting. “Generally, the voting takes place on the basis of gender, with men voting in Telangana and women voting in Maharashtra. But we have held gram sabha meetings and told villagers to cast votes in whichever booth they wish, but only once,” said Rajivgandhi Hanumatha, Collector, Kumaram Bheem Asifabad.

Ramdas Ranveer, however, wants to see efforts from the Maharashtra government. “Under the Indian Constitution, we belong in Maharashtra. We want the Maharashtra government to implement the Supreme Court’s order and transfer land titles to us,” he said.

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