Karnataka to stop Maharashtra’s health insurance scheme in 865 border villages: Bommai

By Swarnali Saha
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Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said on Wednesday that his government will take measures to stop Maharashtra from offering its health insurance scheme in the 865 border villages that the neighbouring state is trying to claim.

He was responding to the Congress' criticism of his administration's alleged inaction in the wake of Maharashtra's Eknath Shinde government recently announcing an additional 54 crore for implementing the 'Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jan Arogya Yojana' in Karnataka border villages, which the neighbouring state claims for itself.

Calling the Maharashtra government's move a "insult" to Karnataka, state Congress President D K Shivakumar and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Siddaramaiah demanded Bommai's resignation earlier today, accusing him of "miserably failing" to protect the state's and Kannadigas' interests.

In response to a question from reporters about Congress' demand for his resignation, Bommai said, "If Maharashtra releases (money) here, why should I resign? We too have released funds for places in Maharashtra like Pandharpur, Tuljapur, where people from Karnataka visit." Speaking to the reporters here, he said, "I will look into their fund release, we will take measures to stop it.... I need not learn from D K Shivakumar."

Shivakumar had already warned the Maharashtra government that not even one inch of Karnataka's land would be ceded. "It is our land, our water, and we will protect it. We are ready to sacrifice our lives to protect our land," he said, as he urged the Karnataka government to take immediate counter measures, stating that it was a mater of the state's self esteem. Calling on pro-Kannada organisations, artists and literary figures to come together to express their opposition against Maharashtra's move with one voice, Shivakumar also questioned Union Home Minister Amit Shah's silence on the issue.

Meanwhile, Siddaramaiah told reporters in Hubballi that Maharashtra's move was a threat to India's federal structure. He criticized Bommai of failing to protect Karnataka's interests and said that he had no right to remain as Chief Minister and should resign immediately. The decades-old border dispute between the two states erupted in December last year, with vehicles from both sides attacked, leaders from both states weighing in, and pro-Kannada and Marathi activists detained by police in Belagavi in a tense atmosphere.

Also, both states had passed resolutions against each other in their respective legislatures, putting forward their claim on the border villages. The border issue dates back to 1957 when States were reorganised on linguistic lines. Maharashtra laid claim to Belagavi, which was part of the erstwhile Bombay Presidency, as it has a sizeable Marathi-speaking population. It also laid claim to over 800 Marathi-speaking villages which are currently a part of Karnataka.

Karnataka maintains that the demarcation done on linguistic lines as per the States Reorganisation Act and the 1967 Mahajan Commission Report is final. And, in an assertion about Belagavi being an integral part of the State, Karnataka built the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha there, modelled on the Vidhana Soudha, the seat of the State Legislature and Secretariat, in Bengaluru.

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