West Bengal

District No. 20

Print edition : July 25, 2014

ON June 25, Alipurduar became the 20th district of West Bengal. For long a subdivision of Jalpaiguri district in north Bengal, Alipurduar was made a district mainly for administrative reasons. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee pointed out that the huge distance between many areas of Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri town, the district headquarters, had been a constant source of irritation, expense and inconvenience for the people of Alipurduar. “I am all for decentralisation of power and smaller administrative units, which help improve efficiency,” she said.

The demand to make Alipurduar a separate district can be traced back to around the time of Independence. The move was welcomed by all political sections. Debaprasad Roy, senior Pradesh Congress leader and MLA from Alipurduar, told Frontline: “This will pave the way for better governance and inclusive growth. Given the ethnic diversity of the region, it was imperative for the administration to come to the fore and understand the various issues in the region.”

Manohar Tirkey, senior leader of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) from Alipurduar, also welcomed the move. “We had initiated the movement to make Alipurduar a district, and we are very happy that our long-standing demand has been met at last. We can now look forward to some all-round growth,” he told Frontline. The previous Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front government in the State had agreed in principle to make Alipurduar a new district but had to defer the plan apparently because proper infrastructure was not yet in place.

The new district comprises eight blocks—Alipurduar, Shamuktala, Kumargram, Falakata, Birpara, Kalchini, Jaigaon and Madarihat—and has a population of around 15 lakh, a large section of it belonging to the tribal community. Alipurduar first became a subdivision in 1876 under British rule.

Calling it a historical development, Mamata Banerjee said her government intended to develop Alipurduar into “one of the best tourist destinations in the country”.

Situated in the foothills of the Himalayas, its location and topography have a unique appeal. There are around 70 tea gardens in the district and numerous sites of natural beauty such as Jayanti, Rajabhatkhawa, Jaldapara, and Chilapata. The Chief Minister even urged the business community and the chambers of commerce to come forward with suggestions to develop the region into a tourist hub.

However, Debaprasad Roy sounded a word of caution. “Alipurduar is a very eco-fragile zone. While it is important to promote tourism in the region, it is equally necessary to ensure that tourism does not take place at the expense of the ecology of the region,” he told Frontline.

Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay

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