Tamil Nadu

Can smaller districts deliver the goods?

Pro-active local bodies hold key to their success: experts

Tamil Nadu will soon see the creation of five new districts. K. Satyagopal, Additional Chief Secretary and Commissioner of Revenue Administration, who was the first District Collector of Theni in 1997, is convinced about the efficacy of having smaller districts.

“Look at Theni, Tiruvallur and Sivaganga districts, [the first two of which were formed in 1997 and the last, in 1985]. They have all developed very well after becoming separate districts,” he says and adds that the implementation, focus and criticality of scrutiny will get enhanced.

But there are contrasting examples too like Ariyalur. Though it is one of the smaller districts, Ariyalur’s size alone has not led to any transformation in its profile. “Such a small district should not have been created at the first instance, even though I do agree that having smaller districts will take the administration closer to people,” says Swaran Singh, who served in different capacities in the State, including as Thoothukudi Collector and Commissioner of Land Reforms. Mr. Singh points out that what matters is equitable distribution of resources.

G. Palanithurai, former chair for Panchayat Raj Studies, Department of Political Science and Development Administration, Gandhigram Rural Institute, says after Independence there has been a change in the way districts are run — from revenue collection to development administration. Keeping this in mind, there has to be “vibrant elected local bodies” in each district.

Pro-active approach

Take the case of Villupuram, which has over 1,000 village panchayats. “How can one Collector address issues of these panchayats,” Prof. Palanithurai asks. While there is nothing wrong conceptually in having small districts, the quality of administration will be better only if the local bodies are active and pro-active, he says.

M.G. Devesahayam, former IAS officer of the Haryana cadre and now a resident of Nagercoil, says there is a tendency among district collectors to have “hands off” approach towards environmental protection, which should not be the case. Those who are going to be made collectors of the new districts should be pro-active with regard to environmental issues.

Lauding the government’s move to create new districts, G. Thilakavathi, former police officer who retired in March 2011 in the rank of Director-General of Police, says this will give opportunities to more persons, both in the general administration and police service. At the same time, the challenges that the officials face in districts have undergone several changes. There are instances of rampant abuse of children and women. In many cases, offenders are using technology in a clever way to commit crime. “Exposure to the conventional policing alone is not sufficient. You need trained and well-qualified police officers to handle such cases,” she says.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 4:10:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/can-smaller-districts-deliver-the-goods/article29103889.ece

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