Critical analysis of district case studies

Dynamic context of the districts

It goes without saying that not every district would be an exact replica of the districts discussed by us. A nation of the size of 1.35 billion and as many as 739 districts is bound to throw varied dynamics in each district, depending on its geo-spatial location, distance from the state capital, urban-rural nature, activeness of institutions of the state government, development of market institutions, and such contexts.

However, the two districts, an urban state capital district and a rural district, far away from the state capital chosen for case studies, represent two very different settings of the districts in India. It is said that India lives in villages and we may also add that India grows in the cities. Further, the priorities of an urban district are often different from that of a rural district. The issues of law and order and development work are also different in these two types of districts. From the above contexts the two districts (rural and urban) fairly represent the diversity of districts in India. Moreover, the purpose of the above district selection was to help us understand few background aspects that result in the dynamism of each district and the nuances therein.

Dynamism of rural districts in India: Rural areas which are located far from the district headquarters have less chance of having access to paved roads, primary schools, and health centers. The state’s ability to promote citizens access to public goods is restricted by physical distance between administrators and citizens. For instance, despite the obligation of the state to public health facilities many of them still lack access to it. Similarly, administrative remoteness affects rural employment and becomes a severe limitation for the structural transformation of the local economy. It results in migration of an employable work force. Remotely located public offices are a rarity - adding to the problem. Administrative remoteness further has add-on consequences on household incomes. Thus, village residents might travel to the other side of the border in search of employment opportunities. Remoteness also has an impact on household assets apart from the rate of education in villages. Consequently, distance between the citizens and the state needs to be reduced so that state can provide public goods in remote areas.

Dynamism of urban districts in India: Contrary' to the rural districts, factors of dynamism in urban districts are different. Urban districts are usually closer to the state capital or industrially driven financial capital. Each state in India has a few urban districts that have the features of industry, business, commerce, banking, supporting infrastructure, better developed service sectors such as education, retailing, hospitals, housing, hotels, entertainment, sports, etc. These are usually denser in population. Quality of air and water is relatively poorer resulting in high noise pollution becoming a smaller issue. From the administration point of view, there are more law and order issues in urban districts than rural districts. The District Collectors are closer to senior bureaucrats and political bosses. The nature of development works largely involves urban infrastructure. While most of India lives in villages or rural districts, most of the growth in India especially economic growth occurs in the urban districts. So, migration and public transportation including railroad are major issues for district administration.

In addition to rural and urban districts in India, there is yet another important type of district in India, viz., the tribal district in scheduled areas.

Dynamism of tribal districts in India: The Indian constitution has given few criteria’s for classifying an area as scheduled: such as, preponderance of tribal population, underdeveloped nature of the area, and marked disparity in economic standards of the people. For inclusive development of the Scheduled Tribes, the scheduled areas order 1950 was passed by the President of India. Further, for the purposes of tribal development an area approach for tribal development was envisaged right from an early phase of planning and formalized during the fifth plan. Consequently, the fifth schedule provides for special legislative powers to the Governor of a state, and concurrently the tribal advisory council was accordingly created. The sixth schedule provides for autonomous district council and thus offers space for tribal self-governance.

The important factors considered by the committee for the formation of a separate scheme of administration for tribal areas were: (i) distinct social custom and tribal organization of different people as well as their religious belief; (ii) fear of exploitation by the people of the plains on account of superior organization and experience of business; (iii) fear that new governments might not set apart funds for the development of tribal areas. A case in point is the formation of the Tripura Tribal Area Autonomous District Council (TTADC). The state of Tripura had massive displaced persons from Bangladesh. Due to this reason the native people of Tripura became a minority in their own state. A strong group of young educated tribes established the Tripura Upajati Juba Samiti (TUJS). Consequently, it resulted in establishment of the Tripura Tribal Autonomous District Council Act in 1979. The council had the power to legislate on various fields, make land allotment, levy, and collect taxes, adjudicate disputes between tribes, and so on. The council jurisdiction is not contagious with revenue district boundaries. Lately, an administrative reform committee recommended some changes such as only one intermediate structure between the village and district at that TTAADC level.

As a commitment to cater to the need of the diversity in tribal districts as per Schedule 5 and Schedule 6 of the Indian Constitution, every government development program from the Government of India usually has a section with special provisions of the program with reference to people and geography of the scheduled districts.

We also find this pattern of large variation of geographic size and population of districts particularly in many large countries such as Russia, China, Canada, Brazil, and Australia. Our primary reason for choosing district case studies however was based on the premise that district administration was a microcosm of public administration in general in India and probably in other countries across the world.

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