Creation of New Districts in India: Pros and Cons – Explained, Pointwise

Introduction

Historically the district, in some form or the other, has been the most important unit of administration in the Indian sub-continent. 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, between 2001-2011 alone as 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 State. In this article, we will explain the procedure, pros, and cons of creating new districts in India.

Present status of creation of new districts
  1. Since the 1971 Census, the average district size is getting smaller and smaller. In 1981 Census India has only 412 districts, with the average size of the district was 7,788 sq. km. But in the 2011 Census, India had 640 districts with the average size of the district just 4,948 sq. km.
  2. The trend shows that the states want smaller districts. This trend is in continuation since the 2011 Census also. The 2021 Census is yet to happen. However, as per reports, since the 2011 Census, approximately 100 new districts were added.
  3. The surge in a number of districts is mostly due to the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh into A.P. and Telangana in 2014. Telangana at present has 33 districts and A.P. has 13 districts.
The trends in creation of new district in India
  1. The idea behind creating new districts is generally to provide effective governance. However, it is sometimes driven by local demands.
  2. The number and size of districts vary from state to state.
  3. 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).
  4. The smallest state, Goa has the least number of districts(2).
  5. However, the number of districts in a state is not always a function of the area of the state, or of its population. For example, Andhra Pradesh is the 7th largest state by area but has only 13 districts. On the other hand, Arunachal Pradesh has 25 districts.
  6. Most of the Northeastern states have smaller districts.
Procedure for creation of new districts in India
  1. 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.
  2. The many States prefer the executive route by simply issuing a notification in the official gazette.
  3. Role of Center in the creation of Districts:
    1. The Centre has no role to play in the alteration of districts or creation of new ones. States are free to decide on this matter.
    2. If the state government wants to change the name of a district or a railway station, then the Home Ministry comes into the picture.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. After examination of their replies, the state government receives a no-objection certificate. Then the name of the district stand changed.
Advantages of creation of new districts in India
  1. Better administration and governance: This is one of the foremost advantages stated by state governments during the creation of new districts. To some extent, it is also true.
  2. 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 utilisation, enhanced people coverage of scheme, etc. All this will improve governance in the new district.
  3. Service to the increased 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.
  4. Bring administration closer to the people: Bigger 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, administrative officers in taluka has to travel nearly 3 hours to district headquarters. A new district can bring administration closer to the people.
  5. District-specific government initiatives: New 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.
  6. Increase employment: Since the new district will require new officials from 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.
Challenges in the creation of new districts in India

Creating a number of districts without any rationale can be challenging. This is due to various reasons such as,

  1. The very process of creating one district is challenging: 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.
  2. Substitute for genuine decentralisation: Zilla parishad and the Panchayat samitis do not enjoy a lot of powers in many states. So, these officials take most of their grievances to the collector. Creating smaller districts without empowering these bodies is against decentralisation in the real sense.
  3. The increased cost of living in new districts: The growth centres 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.
  4. Political motive: Many states reorganise the existing districts and form new ones due to political motive. For example, new districts containing a support base of the ruling party can increase will be advantageous for it.
  5. Under utilisation 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.

The 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission stated that the political gains from forming a new district are a “minor dividend” and not the major one.

Suggestions
  1. Ensure proper decentralisation: Instead of creating new districts every time, the State governments might reform their decentralisation policy. As the Panchayats and Zillas face many challenges in their functioning. If the state government provide more powers this will improve better functioning of Panchayats and Zilla Parishad. For example,
    • Creation of SFCs(State Finance Commission) properly and allocating funds properly.
    • Widening their tax base and provide access to the Capital market to raise funds.
    • State Governments should provide local bodies with the power to recruit personnel to fulfil their functions properly.
  2. Guidelines for the formation of new districts: With new districts are added every year, the Center may 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.
  3. Work on other alternatives: Instead of creating new infrastructure the States may conduct special camps, 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 definitely better in terms of service delivery. But there is always a limit in the formation of new districts for solving administrative and governance issues.

After the enactment of the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments, Panchayats and Zillas became the de-facto third tier. So, the state governments have to focus on providing adequate powers to them for solving the administrative and governance challenges. This will not require any additional funding for creating infrastructure and can provide administration to the doorstep.

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