A district itching to split

Green hills and beautiful valleys. Forests, sea, rivers. Mappilappaattu, Sevens football, bull race. A proud history of fighting against British colonialism and resisting exploitative feudal landlordism. And a people known for their humaneness and warmth (remember the movie Sudani from Nigeria?). Indeed, Malappuram district has a hospitable natural and social environment.

But, 50 years after its origin, the most populous of Kerala’s 14 districts is itching to split–so that its residents would get more governmental care and bigger share of the development pie.

The demand for a new district in the Malabar region by bifurcating Malappuram–which was carved out of the then unwieldy Kozhikode district half a century ago by the EMS Namboothirippad government–is not new. The demand has been sporadic, never in chorus. But, it is now gathering momentum.

However, no political party, except the Social Democratic Party of India, has forcefully raised that demand. Yet, most parties, except the Bharatiya Janata Party, secretly support the idea. They know pretty well that the division is necessary for an equitable, rapid and sustainable development of the region.

Too many people

Managing a district with a population of 4.5 million with the existing administrative paraphernalia is not an easy task. Describing Malappuram as bursting at the seams, especially when it comes to education and healthcare, cannot be an exaggeration. It is a fact that Malappuram does not have the infrastructural wherewithal needed to cater to its huge population.

This shortfall of Malappuram becomes evident when it is placed in comparison with other districts, particularly smaller and less populated ones like Alappuzha and Pathanamthitta. But the big question is: what should be the ground for the formation of a new district? The large current population? The district’s relative backwardness? Or the gross lack of civic amenities?

None of these is sufficient reason for splitting Malappuram, says the BJP, which opposes the idea. Its opposition is understandable given the fact that Muslims make up two-thirds of Malappuram’s population. And seldom do BJP leaders miss an opportunity to portray the district as “mini Pakistan.”

‘Political will’

The proponents of a new district–to be called Tirur district with the fast growing town as its headquarters–know well that it takes strong political will to make their dream come true.

Everyone agrees that the district’ s current socio-economic milieu is vastly different from the situation that warranted the formation of Malappuram 50 years ago.

However, major political stakeholders are treading cautiously. The CPI(M) and the Congress are wary of being branded as trying to appease the minorities by supporting the demand for splitting the district. They also suspect that the Indian Union Muslim League will stand to benefit from a new district. And, BJP leaders still blame EMS Namboothirippad for creating the district in the first place which they allege was an act of appeasing Muslims. (Wayanad too was later carved out of Kozhikode district.)

MLA’s demand

The demand, formally raised in the Assembly a few weeks ago by League member K.N.A. Khader, was only a test dose. The party is watching the reactions to Mr. Khader’s demand even as it is keeping a technical distance from his demand. “The party has not taken any decision on the issue,” says general secretary K.P.A. Majeed. “Of course, MLAs are free to ask for anything that they think right.”

In short, Mr. Khader’s demand was his own, and not the League’s.

Nevertheless, no party has an alternative solution to offer. Politicians know that as the population bulges and amenities shrink, some crucial decisions will have to be taken, sooner than later.

Bifurcation is an option.

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Printable version | Aug 2, 2021 3:07:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kozhikode/a-district-itching-to-split/article28661777.ece

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