Kannada outfit raises red flag as Maharashtra decides to set up Border Experts Committee office near Belagavi

Minister for Public Works and Belagavi district In-charge Satish Jarkiholi said the Karnataka government is committed to protect the state's interests.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Oct 14, 2023 | 8:00 AMUpdatedOct 14, 2023 | 8:00 AM

Karnataka Maharashtra border dispute

A Kannada outfit has voiced its concern and disappointment over the Maharashtra Border Experts Committee’s decision to establish a regional office in Kolhapur’s Chandgad.

The move to set up the office in Chandgad, barely 25 km from Belagavi in Karnataka, has made the outfit blame the Siddaramaiah government for not properly responding to the interstate border dispute with Maharashtra.

The outfit argued that the decisions taken by Maharashtra, including the rollout of health schemes and the establishment of a border-related office, were against the country’s federal system. It demanded swift action by the Karnataka government, besides appointing of minister in charge of the border.

Maharashtra’s Border Experts Committee, led by Shiv Sena MP Dhairyasheel S Mane, chaired a meeting in Mumbai on Wednesday, 11 October, and decided to set up the office to handle issues related to border.

However, the Karnataka government has not responded to the development. Minister for Public Works Satish Jarkiholi asserted that “the government is committed to protecting the interests of the state”.

On the other hand, the interstate border dispute is still before the Supreme Court. In its petition, the Maharashtra government sought to merge 865 villages of five Karnataka districts — Belagavi, Kalaburagi, Karwar, Bidar and Yadgiri —  with that state.

However, the Karnataka government claimed that the suit was not maintainable.

The previous BJP government in Karnataka had passed a resolution stating that “not even an inch of land will be given to Maharashtra” during the Assembly’s winter session in Belagavi in December 2022.

Related: What the Karnataka-Maharashtra border dispute is all about

Kannada outfit expresses concern

Belagavi District Kannada Association Action Committee President Ashok Chandaragi said Maharashtra’s move was against Karnataka’s interests.

“In March this year, the Eknath Shinde-led Maharashtra government decided to roll out the Mahatma Phule Jan Arogya Yojana for the Maratha people of 865 villages in Karnataka’s five districts. This is against the federal system,” he told South First.

Maharashtra’s decision to establish the regional office and appoint senior officials to look into border-related activities would harm Karnataka’s interests, he opined.

“An existing high-power committee under Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde would endorse all decisions of the Border Experts Committee. Maharashtra has already announced that it would roll out one of its health schemes in Karnataka’s five border districts,” Chandaragi said.

“Despite all these developments, neither the previous Basavaraj Bommai-led government nor the Siddaramaiah government has done anything to protect the interests of Karnataka. The governments, irrespective of the party, have confined themselves to issuing statements. No concrete action has been taken,” he alleged.

Also read: Belagavi trifurcation demand resurfaces amid border dispute

‘Karnataka not serious’ 

To drive home his point, Chandaragi pointed out that despite spending ₹500 crore to construct the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha in Belagavi, the government has not yet shifted some of the secretary-level offices from Bengaluru to Belagavi, even after a decade.

“We have been demanding the government to at least move the offices related to border issues such as the Karnataka Border Area Development Authority to Suvarna Vidhana Soudha. But it fell on deaf ears. There has been no concrete initiative to counter Maharashtra,” he added.

“When the Maharashtra government announced health schemes to the border, we appealed to the then-Bommai government to take action, but he remained quiet. He did not even raise this issue before the Union government,” he stated.

“We had also demanded the five district administrations not to cooperate with the neighbouring state to implement the health scheme,” he said.

“The neighbouring state is working as per its interests. Our problem is not with Maharashtra but with our state government. The government has to immediately appoint a border in-charge minister. The state doesn’t have a minister to look into border issues for the past more than six years,” he added.

“The Karnataka government should make concrete decisions to counter Maharashtra, or else we will have to face the consequences,” he warned.

Related: BJP elects Marathi-speaking mayor, deputy in Belagavi City Corp

‘Government committed to protect Karnataka’s interests’

As the Karnataka-Maharashtra border dispute has once again come to the fore, Minister for Public Works and Belagavi district In-charge Satish Jarkiholi asserted that the Congress government would protect the interests of Karnataka.

“If they are opening offices in Kolhapur district, we cannot object. They are not opening any offices in Karnataka. We are keeping a tab on the developments related to the inter-state border dispute,” he told South First.

“Thousands of people from the border areas of Maharashtra come to Karnataka for medical check-ups regularly. Even several people from Karnataka, too, visit the neighbouring state for health and other reasons,” Jarkiholi pointed out, adding that the state government cannot prohibit cross-border visits.

However, he said the Karnataka would seriously look into Maharashtra announcing the health scheme in the state’s border villages.”

HK Patil, who was the border in-charge minister in the previous Siddaramaiah government, was not available for comment. He now holds the Law and Parliamentary Affairs portfolio in the Congress government.