In Karnataka, Jarkiholi proposes to divide Belagavi district to ‘improve efficiency’ | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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In Karnataka, Jarkiholi proposes to divide Belagavi district to ‘improve efficiency’

By, Belagavi
Aug 16, 2023 12:02 AM IST

Jarkiholi said that this division would allow people to have easier access to the administration offices

In a controversial move, Satish Jarkiholi, the in-charge minister of Belagavi, has expressed the government’s intention to divide the district for administrative reasons.

Yemkanamardi, India - May 1, 2018: Satish Jarkiholi, Congress candidate for the upcoming Karnataka state Assembly election from Yemkanamardi constituency, during a meeting with the party workers in Mudhol, India, on Tuesday, May 1, 2018. (Photo by Arijit Sen/Hindustan Times)(To go with Vikram Gopal's story) (Arijit Sen/HT Photo)
Yemkanamardi, India - May 1, 2018: Satish Jarkiholi, Congress candidate for the upcoming Karnataka state Assembly election from Yemkanamardi constituency, during a meeting with the party workers in Mudhol, India, on Tuesday, May 1, 2018. (Photo by Arijit Sen/Hindustan Times)(To go with Vikram Gopal's story) (Arijit Sen/HT Photo)

During his Independence Day public address after hoisting the National flag, Jarkiholi said that this division would allow people to have easier access to the administration offices, which could be located closer to them.

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Currently, people from Athani and Raibag regions have to travel around 150 kilometres to reach the deputy commissioner’s office in Belagavi. “To address this issue and improve administration efficiency, we have proposed the district’s bifurcation,” he explained.

Several Congress MLAs, including those from Bailhongal, Ramdurga, and Savadatti, who vehemently opposed a similar plan in 1997, have now voiced their intentions to gather public opinions before taking any decision. Mahantesh Koujalagi, the MLA for Bailhongal, said: “If people will oppose, I’ll join the agitation too until the proposal of bifurcation is dropped,” Koujalagi said.

On the other hand, Savadatti MLA Viswas Vaidya and Ramdurga MLA Ashok Pattan, who are closely associated with Jarkiholi, said they plan to discuss the matter with the chief minister and act on the basis of the opinions of (people?) of their respective taluks. Notably, the people of Savadatti, Bailhongal, and Ramdurga resisted a merger with Gokak in 1997, preferring to remain a part of Belagavi.

While the Kannada organisations in Belagavi have issued a stern warning of a statewide protest (WHEN?) against the government’s decision until the border dispute with Maharashtra is resolved in the Supreme Court.

Ashok Chandaragi, the convenor of the Kannada Organisations’ Action Committee in Belagavi said that the government should prioritise maintaining the state’s solidarity rather than making hasty administrative changes that could lead to unintended consequences.

Chandaragi questioned the government’s reasoning for the proposed bifurcation, given that both current and past deputy commissioners and superintendents of police have effectively managed the district’s challenges. “If the state can be governed by a single chief minister, then deputy commissioners and SPs, who are IAS and IPS officers, should be capable of managing a district with a population of around 35 lakhs,” he said.

Sayyad Mansur, a Congress office bearer, expressed concerns that the party’s standing could be compromised if it pursued the district bifurcation issue. “Siddaramaiah government seemed to put hands in the nest of honeybees by taking such a drastic decision which not only proved harmful to Kannadigas as well the government,” he added.

Deepak Gudadanatti, the Belagavi district president of Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, echoed fears that the bifurcation might empower Marathi-dominated areas, potentially leading to demands for merger into Maharashtra.

Recalling previous instances where the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) won local body elections and advocated for merging Marathi-speaking areas into Maharashtra, Gudadanatti warned that the MES’s victory in local bodies could strengthen Maharashtra’s claims in its border dispute with Karnataka.

“The late Chief Minister J H Patel refrained from bifurcating Belagavi district to prevent benefiting pro-Maharashtrian factions. Patel’s decision was motivated by concerns that the MES could exploit local body victories to press for merger into Maharashtra,” he said.

During J H Patel’s tenure, Athani, Chikkodi, and Raibag taluks were allocated to the proposed Chikkodi district, while Gokak, Savadatti, Ramdurga, and Bailhongal taluks were assigned to the Gokak district. Belagavi, Khanapur, and Hukkeri taluks were included in the Belagavi district.

The proposal was withdrawn on September 20, 1997, following widespread protests, with the condition that the Belagavi district would remain intact until the border dispute with Maharashtra was settled in the Supreme Court. Despite subsequent governments under Patel’s leadership prioritizing the state’s interests, the current Siddaramaiah government has revisited the matter.

Having suffered a series of electoral defeats, the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) has clung to its singular objective since 1956: merging Marathi-speaking areas in Karnataka with Maharashtra. Additionally, the MES has advocated for the district’s bifurcation as a strategy to regain its political foothold.

Vikas Kalghatagi, the MES spokesperson, outlined their intentions, saying: “We foresee our influence expanding across numerous Gram Panchayats and Taluk Panchayats, allowing us to govern using our language. This includes accessing official documents in our language, fulfilling one of our longstanding demands.”

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