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More districts

With the government’s attention riveted to smaller districts, attention to administrative nitty-gritty can be expected to be more focused than now, and deliveries should improve.

Statesman News Service |

Monday’s decision of the West Bengal cabinet to create seven more districts is intrinsically a matter of administrative exigence, one that will raise the number of such administrative units from 23 to 30. Just as Kalimpong was carved out of Darjeeling a couple of years ago, so too will the new districts be carved out of the South and North 24-Parganas districts ~ which together were an unwieldy administrative unit at one point in time ~ in addition to Nadia, Murshidabad and Bankura. Midnapore was also undivided at one point of time. On closer reflection, there is no reason to cavil at Nadia’s loss of cultural heritage with the upgrade of the important sub-division of Ranaghat to a fullfledged district. Of vital import is the division of North 24-Parganas into two new districts ~ Ichamati that skirts Bangladesh and one headquartered in Basirhat, hitherto a subdivision.

Both initiatives ought to ensure a sharper focus on cross-border crime, not to forget the quiet influx that began in the late seventies. With the government’s attention riveted to smaller districts, attention to administrative nitty-gritty can be expected to be more focused than now, and deliveries should improve. A better administration of the border districts can reasonably be expected. Furthermore, the creation of more districts will help the general administration to post more senior officers, including those from the WBCS, in senior positions like that of District Magistrate. It can reasonably be assumed that the upgradation will lead to a cadre review of the bureaucracy. It is pretty obvious that Nabanna wants to make what they call the “service delivery system” flawless before the Lok Sabha elections in 2024 in yet another attempt to counter the BJP, now rather down but not out. The official logic is that small and manageable districts can counter the anti-incumbency factor by providing better services.

Yet another contretemp is that the basic infrastructure, estimated to cost between Rs 200 crore and Rs 300 crore, is in place before the recast district administrations start functioning effectively. It is hard not to wonder whether a torpid economy can afford to spend such a huge non-budgetary amount, but the funds will have to be found. It is unfortunate that the bifurcation of Nadia, yet another district bordering Bangladesh, should be greeted with protests to buttress the demand to retain Ranaghat’s legacy and culture. It would be presumptuous to aver that the new administrative zone will denude the rich culture and heritage associated with Nadia, that bears witness to the emergence of the Bhakti movement ~ a momentous event in Bengal’s social history ~ expounded by Mahaprabhu Chaitanya. The creation of Bishnupur district by carving out Bankura need not be resented as terracotta art shall remain intact in the adjacent district. As also its stature as a tourist destination.