Satish Jarkiholi’s remark brings issue of Belagavi district division to the fore again

Kannada organisations are opposing the idea, saying it will not further Karnataka’s interests

Published - June 10, 2024 08:45 pm IST

Belagavi districts accounts for 18 Assembly seats spread over 14 taluks.

Belagavi districts accounts for 18 Assembly seats spread over 14 taluks. | Photo Credit: file photo

The long-debated issue of Belagavi district division has come to the fore again, with Public Works Minister Satish Jarkiholi hinting that the government is seriously considering it.

At a recent press conference, he said it was time Belagavi was divided into Belagavi, Chikkodi, and Gokak districts.

He pointed out that the present Belagavi district was too big and difficult to administer. To buttress his argument, Mr. Jarkiholi said the whole of Udupi district had a population of nine lakh, while Belagavi taluk alone had nine lakh people; therefore, it needed to be divided into a minimum of three districts.

The Minister had made a similar remark during his Independence Day speech last year.

Sanjiv Badiger , president of the Chikkodi separate district agitation committee, has welcomed the decision. “We have been agitating for it for over 50 years. We will be relieved if the government takes it [proposal] up,” he said.

Belagavi district has a population of over 54 lakh as per the last census. It accounts for 18 Assembly seats spread over 14 taluks. The district has over 1,500 villages/ hamlets grouped into 506 gram panchayats. After delimitation of taluks, the average number of taluks in each district in the State is seven as against 14 in Belagavi.

A retired IAS officer who served as Regional Commissioner, Belagavi, said the division of the district was highly advisable, for administrative convenience.

“It will help the people by increasing the number of all-India service officers posted here, other district level officers, and the opening of several district-level offices of various departments. It will also give a push to rural development, as smaller districts offer officers a chance to closely monitor the progress of various schemes,” he said.

The issue, however, is contentious for two reasons, mainly. Kannada organisations are opposing it, saying it could consolidate Marathi-speaking villages in one smaller district and support the claim of parties such as Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti that such areas should be merged with the neighbouring State. The second is the disagreement between some legislators and other leaders about locating the district headquarters in a town like Gokak, which is seen as a pocket borough of the politically powerful Jarkiholi brothers.

Some leaders from Bailhongal do not want to be part of a probable Gokak district. They want their own Bailhongal district. “This town has been the seat of the sub-divisional magistrate since the British times. We deserve to have our own district,” said Shivarangan Bolannanavar, president of the Bailhongal district agitation committee.

The committee members have warned of an agitation if a Bailhongal district is not formed. They claim the support of Mahantesh Koujalagi, Congress MLA for Bailhongal. There have been similar, but feeble demands from leaders in Athani, Ramdurg, and Raibag taluks.

Ashok Chandaragi, convener of Kannada organisations in the district, said the committee had asked the government to keep the issue on the back burner till the border dispute with Maharashtra was sorted out.

“We have seen similar proposals in the past. They were all withdrawn after protests by Kannada organisations. The decision of the then Chief Minister J.H. Patel to carve out Chikkodi district in 1997 was resisted and it was later dropped.

Another proposal in 2007 was also given up. In 2020, however, the State government did not consider the cause of Belagavi when Vijayanagara was formed,” he said.

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