Do smaller units make for better administration? It is no surprise that Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao thinks so. After all, that was an important reason for the movement demanding the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and statehood for Telangana. But it is a telling commentary on the development so far, that people geographically removed from the district headquarters feel a sense of alienation from centres of power. Actually, Chief Minister Chandrasekhar Rao originally intended to create just 14 new districts; this was one of the election promises for the 2014 polls. Later, on the basis of the report of a Cabinet subcommittee, a draft notification was issued for 17 new districts. But after fresh demands from sections of the people, the > Chief Minister finally settled on 21 new districts for a total of 31 . Also, 25 additional revenue divisions, 125 new mandals, four new police commissionerates, 23 new police subdivisions, 28 new circles and 91 more police stations have been carved out. The new units could facilitate better monitoring of government schemes, and provide a more even distribution of resources. Indeed, one of the few intended benefits of the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) is just this: an even spread of resources, and local inputs into framing of development work. A bottom-up approach to development that allows local stakeholders greater say in decision-making on issues directly affecting their lives is certainly welcome, if undertaken after studying the cost to benefit ratio.
But the government’s reasons for creating new districts morphed from administrative to political. The decision to increase the number of districts was taken following the spiralling of an agitation in Jangaon, Sircilla and Gadwal. Undivided Andhra Pradesh had fewer districts. Alongside the benefits in terms of ease of governance of smaller districts, there are costs to be borne: creation of additional administrative infrastructure, transfer of personnel, and replication of paperwork. The Rs. 1 crore sanctioned for each district for initial arrangements will hardly suffice. At present, the existing staff are being redeployed, and existing buildings are being utilised for administrative purposes. But in the longer term the State will have to incur huge expenditure to create administrative infrastructure in each new district headquarters town. Increasing bureaucratic work at the village level will not automatically lead to better governance outcomes. The Chief Minister must use this opportunity to involve local communities in all decision-making on the development road map in their areas.