Keeping its election promise, the Congress government in Chhattisgarh on Monday notified the proposed limits of Khairagarh-Chuikhadaan-Gandai, the state’s 33rd district. On April 16, the party won the Khairagarh Assembly by-poll by more than 20,000 votes on the back of its promise to create the new district.
The state had 16 districts when it came into being in 2001 and has seen the formation of six under the Congress government since 2018. The others are Gaurella-Pendra-Marwahi in 2020 and Manendragarh, Manpur-Mohla-Chowki, Sarangarh-Bilaigadh, and Sakti last year. All these regions had been asking for district status for over a decade and some of these demands found space in the Congress’s election manifesto.
Experts said the districts at the time of the state’s formation were vast and people living far away from the headquarters faced neglect. “When the state was formed, huge areas were notified as districts. For years, there were no changes even as demands were made,” said a retired senior bureaucrat.
With more demands rising from at least five regions, sources in the Bhupesh Baghel-led administration said the government was planning to raise the district count to 36 by creating three more. On Sunday, the chief minister said that an officer on special duty would be appointed to finalise the formation of the Sarangarh-Bilaigadh district.
“When an area is declared a district, not only does the permeance of government schemes increase in it, a Collector is appointed for better monitoring and efficient development. Districts in our state were so big that some regions would always find them inaccessible. We are bringing government institutions closer to people,” said a senior official close to the Chief Minister’s Office.
The bureaucratic exercise of setting up a new district, however, adds to the exchequer’s costs. In the last Budget, Baghel allotted Rs 235 crore for the creation of new districts. “It is only the cost at the beginning. Once the districts are established, they start contributing to the treasury. It is a good idea for the public and the government in the long run,” said a senior revenue officer.
The 33rd district will be created by merging the tehsils of Khairagarh, Chhuikhadan, and Gandai, with Khairagarh as the headquarters. According to the government notification on the proposed limits, it will border the districts of Durg and Bemetara in the east; Madhya Pradesh’s Balaghat district in the west; Kabirdham district in the north; and Rajnandgaon district, from which it is being carved out, in the south.
The delimitation exercise will be taken into consideration after 60 days during which the public can write to the government with any objections to the government’s proposals. Sources said the new district would be one of the smaller ones, keeping with the ruling party’s plan to have manageable districts with accessible headquarters.
Newly elected MLA Yashoda Verma said the first order of business was ensuring development. “The first priority is to serve the people. The district will be made and a lot of work will have to be done in a short amount of time,” she said, adding that the focus would be on the agrarian front and on ensuring that the region benefits from the government’s initiatives for the rural economy.
While the three tehsils have government hospitals and higher secondary schools, the creation of the new district is expected to boost the development of Rajnandgaon’s Salehwara and Jalbandha blocks, which will become tehsil and up-tehsil respectively. In its notification on Monday, the government said the Salhewara tehsil would have 78 villages within its limits.
The government has also promised to build colleges and vocational institutions in the new district that already boasts of having the Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwa Vidyalaya, India’s first performing arts college. The institution was built in Kharigarh under the patronage of the erstwhile royal family. According to officials, the literacy rate of women in the region is above average.
With the borders identified, the next step is the general administration department finalising postings to the district. Though the process had been sped up, the entire exercise would take some time, said an official.