Friday, February 18, 2011

For a better Thane

Divide and prosper?

Friday, February 04, 2011
By Kaptan Mali
Demand to split Thane district for overall development gets stronger

Thane, the satellite city of India’s economic capital Mumbai, has transformed itself in recent decades from being an industrial and rural area to a fast growing city of multiplexes and high-rises. But, one thing has not yet changed — its tag of being the biggest district in India on the basis of population.

Due to this, authorities are having problems in developing Thane equitably. On the one hand, there is a section of the population that is getting the best of benefits while, on the other hand, people in rural areas like Jawahar-Mokhada and Shahpur are dying of malnutrition.

Thane district is spread over an area of around 9,337 sq. km and is the only district in India where there are seven municipal corporations, five municipal councils, 1,748 villages, 15 tehsils and 37 cities. But a major part of the administration is looked after by the Thane headquarters, which faces problems when it comes to taking care of the entire district. The district is bound by Pune and Ahmednagar in the east, Nashik in the east and northeast, Valsad District of Gujarat and the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli in the north.

Often, the residents of these areas have to visit the district headquarters for basic government facilities, which sometimes is a 6-8 hour journey one way.

Further, the district comprises of hilly, coastal, as well as jungle areas, making it even more difficult for officials to manage it effectively. For over two decades, there has been a demand to divide the district in order to make the administration more effective and swift, but nothing has been done so far.

Explained advocate Chitaman Vanga, Member of Parliament from Palghar, “It is too difficult for just one superintendent of police and one collector to handle such a vast area. There must be a division of the district. As per the plan, the government has allocated only Rs.361 crore for the development of rural areas in Thane whereas, for urban development, more than Rs.600 crore has been allocated.” Advocate Vanga also feels that while the total population of Thane district presently stood at around 1.5 crore, once the Churchgate-Dahanu suburban train service begins, it will only worsen the situation.

In 1992, O.P. Sharma, a social activist who has been fighting for the division of Thane for over 25 years, had initiated a movement to make Jawahar Taluka a district. He succeeded partly. Giving the example of Mira-Bhayandar, Sharma explained, “In 1984, Mira-Bhayandar was a Gram Panchayat and in 1995 it became a municipal corporation and now it is competing with Mumbai. So, one can also hope for such type of development in Thane once it is divided.”

Sharma, however, added, “Before coming to the conclusion of dividing the district, the government must do a thorough survey and analysis of the people residing here. There should be three divisions as per its geographical characteristics – hilly, coastal and urban. Also, there must be a headquarter for each division.”

Santosh Giri, a resident of the district, has a different viewpoint though. “The division of Thane will be a costly affair for the government. Instead, they should appoint an additional collector with an IAS rank in each of the three areas of the district and provide them with the responsibility of the entire development of the area. If these people work with full integrity, the area will prosper like other regions of the country.”

A senior Thane IPS officer, on condition of anonymity, commented, “It is true that the division of Thane will help us in managing the district in a more effective way. At present, there should be a separate police commissionerate for Mira Bhayandar and Vasai.

It will reduce the burden of the Thane rural superintendent of police.” When contacted, Thane District Magistrate, A.L. Jarhad, assured, “There has been a demand to divide Thane for the last 15 years. A district planning committee is looking into the issue.”

Thane in numbers
Tehsils: 15
Panchayat samitis: 13
Cities: 37
Municipal corporations: 7
Municipal councils: 5

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