By Dr Palla Trinadha Rao
The Government of Andhra Pradesh has taken a decision in a recent cabinet meeting to constitute a committee to study the reorganization of the existing 13 districts into 25 based on the number of Parliament constituencies. Instead of considering the Parliamentary constituency as a unit for forming a new district, the Araku (ST) Parliament Constituency may be trifurcated for the creation of new tribal districts keeping in view its diversity in the terms of topography, people living there in and their cultural context.
The Andhra Pradesh Districts (Formation) Act 7 of 1974 provides for the formation of districts in the state of Andhra Pradesh and for alteration of areas or boundaries of the districts in the interests of better administration and development of the areas comprised therein and for matters connected therewith. Unlike in plain areas, in the context of tribal areas, geographical contiguity, match in identities, histories and cultural practices of tribals, resources to survive etc. are to be taken into consideration while redrawing the boundaries to notify the districts in the State.
During the pre-Independence period, the Scheduled Districts Act, 1874 was passed to specify the scheduled tracts and powers of local government institutions. Later, the Government of India Act, 1919 and 1935 were passed excluding certain tribal areas partially and totally from the normal governance. After the commencement of the Constitution of India, the partially excluded areas were brought under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution and Article 244 was made applicable for their administration. These areas are known as Scheduled Areas.
The State of Andhra Pradesh has a population of 8.4 crore out of which 27.39 lakh (5.53%) are tribal. There are 19 Scheduled Tribes; amongst them Chenchus, Kondareddi,Gadba, Savara,Kondh, and Porj (6 STs) are Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups. Their population is 4.5 lakhs of the total ST population of 27.39 lakhs.
The Fifth Scheduled Area spreads over 5 districts namely Srikakulam, Vijayanagaram, Visakhapatnam, East and West Godavari Districtscovering the 14,132.56 sq.km. The ST population living in this Scheduled Area is about 53%, around 14.51 lakh, whose rights are subject to the special protection of Article 244 and the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Area (PESA) Act, 1996.
At the time of devising and adopting the strategy of Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) for socio- economic development of Scheduled Tribes during Fifth Five Year Plan (1974-79), certain areas, besides Scheduled Areas, were also found having preponderance of tribal population. In view of this Clause (2) of the paragraph 6 of the Fifth Schedule was amended through the Constitution (Amendment) Act, 1976 to empower the President to increase the area of any Scheduled Areas in any State.
Presently, there are 4,764 scheduled villages in Srikakulam,Vijayanagaram, Visakhapatnam, East and West Godavari Districts. As part of the rationalization of Scheduled Areas, the Andhra Pradesh government is doing an exercise to include non scheduled areas listed out 553 villages besides other villages left over in the list for inclusion in the scheduled areas of the state.
Tribals living in scheduled and non-scheduled areas have distinct culture and live in specific geographical locations unlike the non tribals living in plain areas. There are also certain tribal dominant villages in other than the scheduled and non-scheduled mandals also. Those villages also have to be taken into consideration for formation of new districts. The major tribes like Savara and Jatapu are spread over in Srikakulam, Vizianagaram districts, Bagata and Khond in Visakhapatnam while Koya and Kondareddy in East and West Godavari districts.
It is pertinent to note that the Bhuria Committee, constituted by Government of India in 1994, for suggesting appropriate framework for governance in the Scheduled Areas, recommended autonomy to adivasis by adopting the broad frame-design of autonomous district councils contained in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. It also suggested reorganization of the districts bringing together both the scheduled and non-scheduled tribal dominated villages.
Further, the provision (o) of Section 4 of PESA, 1996 also directs the state government to follow the pattern of Sixth Schedule to the Constitution while designing the administrative arrangements in the panchayats at district level. The intention is to create tribal autonomous councils empowering tribals for self-rule in the Scheduled Areas.
There is a need to maintain the very fabric of tribal societies in the scheduled and tribal sub-plan (TSP) villages to follow broadly the constitutional design for governance and administration in the Scheduled Areas envisaged under Article 244 of the Constitution of India and PESA Act. Therefore, there is a need to take a different approach in the context of tribal areas while redrawing the boundaries to notify the districts in the State.
The Araku Lok Sabha constituency in Andhra Pradesh is geographically the second largest constituency in India, which is spread over hilly terrains of the Eastern Ghats. Seven assembly segments Arakuvalley and Paderu (Visakhapatnam district), Palakonda (Srikakulam district), Rampachodavaram (East Godavari district), Kurupam, Parvathipuram and Salur (Vizianagaram district) make up this parliamentary constituency of Araku, all of which are reserved for ST candidates barring one assembly segment i.e. Parvathipuram (SC reserved).
The Araku ST Lok Sabha constituency encompasses 38 mandals, of which 23 are totally scheduled mandals, 7 are partial agency mandals, while only 8 are totally non-scheduled Mandals. Therefore the Araku parliamentary constituency spreads over the majority tribal areas of Andhra Pradesh.
In view of the landscape of the Araku Lok Sabha constituency which is composed of forest, hills and rugged areas, the proposal for three districts is made on the necessity for the effective administration and the need to bring services closer to the tribal people. Three new districts Arakuvalley, Rampachodavaram and Kurupam may be carved out from the Araku Parliament Constituency.
Kurupam district may be constituted with four, namely Bhamini,Palakonda,Seethampet and Veeraghattam in Srikkulam district clubbing with other Balijepet,Garugubilli, GL Puram, Jiyyammavalasa, Komrada, Kurupam, Makkuva, Parvathipuram and Seethanagaram in Vizianagaram district.
Araku valley district may be formed with 10 agency mandals of Paderu revenue division in Visakhapatnam district along with three other mandals namely Salur, Pachipenta and Mantada in Vizianagaram district. Rampachodavaram District may be formed with all 11 agencymandals of East Godavari District with agency mandal Koyyuru in Visakhapatnam district.
Average Size & Populations
The proposed Kurupam district would be with an area of 2,855 sq km, Araku valley with 6,458 sq km, while Rampachodavaram would be with 7,094 sq km and an average distance between the proposed district head quarters to the tail end mandal of the district would be around 70-129 km. The Araku Parliament Constituency covers a long stretch of the tribal tract of 472 km. Therefore with the proposal, the distance from the mandals to the proposed district head quarters will come down significantly.
Average size of the proposed district is around 5,469 sq km. The size of the proposed district would be more or less similar to the present size of the Srikakulam district in the State which encompasses 5,837 Sq.km. Now the average population per district is 38 lakh and the average size is 12,323 sq km. Average population per the proposed district would be around 6.33 lakh as per 2011 census. The average population in the proposed districts would be around 6.67 lakh as per the 2018 population projections.
If the proposed three districts are constituted then they would become exclusive tribal districts as most of the mandals are located in the schedule and sub-plan areas. If the districts are smaller they can be better governed. Therefore, instead of considering the Parliamentary constituency as a unit for forming a new district, the Araku Parliament Constituency may be trifurcated for creation of the proposed new tribal districts keeping in view of its diversity in the terms of topography, people living there in and their cultural context.
A similar analogy may be applied to the Eluru Lok Sabha constituency also while redrawing the boundaries for new districts. A new tribal district may be carved out from the mandals covering both the agency and non-agency mandals in the jurisdiction of Eluru Lok Sabha Constituency.