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7 new districts in West Bengal — how and why are districts created or abolished in India?

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    5th Aug, 2022

Context

The West Bengal cabinet has approved the creation of seven new districts in the state.

Background

  • Historically, the district, in some form or the other, has been the most important unit of administration in the Indian sub-continent.

The new districts formed in West Bengal

  • A new Sundarban district will be carved out of the South 24-Parganas district.
  • 2 new districts will be created out of the North 24-Parganas district.
  • A new district in Basirhat.
  • A new district will be carved out of the existing Bankura district.
  • 2 new districts will be created out of the Murshidabad district.
  • According to “Know India”, a website run by the Government of India, there are 718 Districts in India at present. This is more than double the number of districts in India in the 1971 Census.
  • Further, new districts are getting added to the Indian political map every year by citing governance and administration-related issues.
  • According to the 2011 Census in 2001-2011 has many as 46 districts were added within that time. Since the 2011 Census, approximately 100 districts were added in India.
  • Recently Punjab Chief Minister has declared Malerkotla as the 23rd district of the Punjab
  • Similarly, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, and many more states have declared the formation of new districts in their states.

So, let us examine the scenario and its pros and cons of it.

Analysis

What is the District's role in the governance of a State?

  • A District is a unit of administration that is responsible for the management of the task of government so far as it lies within an area legally recognized as a district.
  • The district collector or district magistrate is a member of the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) and is in charge of the administration of a district.

The main functions of the district administration are as follows:

  • Maintaining law and order in the district.
  • Providing relief work in case of emergencies like floods and famine.
  • Maintenance of land records and revenue collection.
  • Providing civic amenities and monitoring the overall development process.
  • Supervising the working of the Panchayati Raj System.

What is the present scenario says regarding the formation of districts?

  • The idea behind creating new districts is generally to provide effective governance. However, it is sometimes driven by local demands.
  • The number and size of districts vary from state to state.
  • The larger states predictably have a higher number of districts. For example, Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of districts (75). This is followed by Madhya Pradesh (52).
  • The smallest state, Goa has the least number of districts (2).
  • However, the number of districts in a state is not always a function of the area of the state or its population. For example, Arunachal Pradesh has only 25 districts.
  • Most of the North-eastern states have smaller districts.

What is the Procedure to form a new District?

  • The power to create new districts or alter or abolish existing districts rests with the State governments.
  • This can either be done through an executive order or by passing a law in the State Assembly.
  • Many States prefer the executive route by simply issuing a notification in the official gazette.
  • The Centre has no role to playin the alteration of districts or the creation of new ones. States are free to decide on this matter.
  • If the state government wants to change the name of a district or a railway station, then the Home Ministry comes into the picture.
  • The State government will propose a new name to a district and forward the proposal to the Home ministry. The Home Ministry will forward the proposal to other departments.
  • After that, the departments such as the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Intelligence Bureau, Department of Posts, Geographical Survey of India Sciences, and the Railway Ministry, provide their clearance to the proposal of the state government.
  • After examination of their replies, the state government receives a no-objection certificate. Then the name of the district stand changed.

Does districts are even abolished by some States?

  • States only have the power to abolish the district on account of the following reasons;
    • Mal-administration
    • Lesser population
    • Lack of staff

What are the Advantages of forming new districts?

  • Better administration and governanceThis is one of the foremost advantages stated by state governments during the creation of new districts.
  • The smaller district ensures better governance: New districts will host a range of administrative machinery in the district. This will result in better implementation of government schemes, proper fund utilization, enhanced people coverage of scheme, etc. All this will improve governance in the new district.
  • Serve a large population:Since 1981, the average district area has become 44% smaller in 2019. But, the average number of people in a district has risen from 16.6 lakh to 18.6 lakh in 2019. So the new districts can ensure better service delivery for the increased population.
  • Bring administration closer to the peopleBigger districts hinder the administration process in some areas of that district itself.
  • For example, before the bifurcation of the Amravati district, the farthest taluka was around 150 km from the district headquarters. 
  • So, people, and administrative officers in taluka have to travel nearly 3 hours to district headquarters. A new district can bring the administration closer to the people.
  • Decentralized GovernanceNew districts might attract more district-specific schemes. For example, the government can set up an agricultural research and assistance Centre or a residential school for gifted children. The state government can provide better funding for backward districts. This will benefit the local population.
  • Increase employmentSince the new district will require new officials from the top-down, this will increase the employment in government directly. It will also spur employment opportunities indirectly. For example, government tender and associated employment for locals, new shops and services near government buildings, etc.

What are the challenges associated?


  • Increase in expenditure and resources: The government has to find office space for different departments and fill many new positions. All this will require a huge government exchequer. The government will also face challenges with land acquisition.
  • Substitute for genuine decentralization: Zilla Parishad and the Panchayat Samiti do not enjoy a lot of power in many states. So, these officials take most of their grievances to the collector. Creating smaller districts without empowering these bodies is against decentralization in the real sense.
  • The increased cost of living in new districts: The growth centers created in new district headquarters will also make the land rates and other service costs go up. This will increase the cost of living in the new district headquarters in long run.
  • A Political move: Many states reorganize the existing districts and form new ones due to political motives. For example, new districts containing a support base of the ruling party can increase will be advantageous for it.
  • Underutilization of administration: If the district is too small, then the administration and associated machinery will be underutilized. Further, the creation of more and smaller districts will also make the management of districts harder for states.

Way forward

  • Ensure proper guidelines: With new districts are added every year, the Center can prescribe certain criteria for the formation of a new district. For example, the Center may release a guideline that contains the minimum area of the district, its population, etc.
  • Invest in other alternatives: Instead of creating new infrastructure, the States may conduct special camps and frequent field visits from officials. This will not only save the government exchequer but also serve the majority of the administrative and governance targets.

Conclusion

Districts are the third tier of India’s governance structure, after the Centre and the state. Smaller districts are better in terms of service delivery. But there should not be made for political gains and ensuring vote banks from a particular area.

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