Chhota Udepur was carved out of parts from Vadodara and the Panchmahals districts Chhota Udepur,Kawant,Naswadi,Sankheda and Jetpurpavi qualifying it as a tribal-dominated entity. One of the most mineral rich districts of the state,Chhota Udepur has a rich forest area of 75,704 hectares. Not only that,several mining units of minerals and sand are now in the treasure of the newly carved district. This mainly includes 5.39 lakh tonnes of dolomite,52,000 tonnes of fluorite,90.77 lakh tonnes of sand and 4,000 tonnes of granite. In fact,with its rich mining resources,Chhota Udepur is all set to become one of the highest revenue-earning districts in the state. The district will contribute about Rs 20 crore annually to the state treasury only from the mining exploits it has to offer. Chhota Udepur is also a major hub for dairy and milk production,churning about 1.20 lakh litres of milk daily.
One of the main reasons being attributed to the division of the district is to ensure smooth and accessible administration. Parts that have now become the new district of Chhota Udepur are located about 150 km away from the city of Vadodara,where all the district administrative offices are located. People in these areas feel that bringing the administrative offices closer will make it easier for them to put up their complaints and demands before the officers. Congress leader Narayan Rathwa says,Until now,the villagers had to travel all the way to Vadodara for even the smallest of paperwork and permissions. The officers visited this area once in three months. This will surely change as they will now be available to the locals in these areas,which will automatically bring better implementation of the schemes awarded by the government for this area,especially the road infrastructure and education schemes.
While the area has been saddled with several incidents of illegal sand-mining,according to officials,the division of the administration will only make it easier to keep a watch on the sand mafia. The newly appointed collector of the district,Jenu Devan,told The Indian Express,My focus will be on developing the infrastructure,human resources and ensuring smooth implementation of various policies. The illegal sand mining is certainly an important issue and once the mechanism of the revenue district is in place,we will have the district police stepping in too. In the near future,there might also be a District Officer for Mining,so that we will be more equipped to tackle them in an organised manner with a quick response time.
The district headquarters of Chhota Udepur is still awaiting an official administrative office. Currently,provisions are being made for an ad hoc arrangement at the unoccupied hostel of the Girls Polytechnic College in Chhota Udepur.
Vadodara District Development Officer (DDO),Ravikant Arora,has requested the principal of the college to grant permission to run ad hoc Zila Panchayat office of the district from its hostel premises until the state government makes provisions for the same.
Arora,who has been given the additional charge to manage the affairs of Chhota Udepur until a stable administration is set up,has written to the Principal of the Chhota Udepur Girls Polytechnic College to allow Zila Panchayat officers to begin functioning from its hostel campus. Arora said,We have identified the girls hostel of the polytechnic college in Chhota Udepur for a temporary office for our officers,as the hostel is lying unused for the last six years,so that we can begin functioning from there immediately. Arora says that he has already delegated some staff from the Vadodara district panchayat office to help set up the mechanism in Chhota Udepur. Vadodara Zila Panchayats Deputy DDO S K Rathod,one administrative secretary as well as three senior clerks have been deputed to Chhota Udepur as of now.
In Chhota Udepurs case technical aspects of carving a new district are yet to be ironed out. For now,the major powers continue to rest with the administration in Vadodara that is helping in a smooth transition of the district. Although Chhota Udepur district has seen the appointment of IAS Officer Jenu Devan as the Collector,the lack of a state notification means that Vadodara District Collector and District Magistrate,Vinod Rao,will also perform his duty as the District Magistrate of Chhota Udepur.
An officer from the administration,who does not wish to be named,says,It means that anyone who wants to seek arms licences in Chhota Udepur will have to seek permission from Vadodara DM. This matter should be resolved within a month or so,once the state and panchayat notifications empower the revenue district of Chhota Udepur to also have a district magistrate of its own. The appointment of the police department and an SP will also take place then.
Chhota Udepur is also famous for the Pithora paintings,the traditional art of the Rathwas,which often adorns the walls of the village homes. The painting is made up of intrinsic features and motifs depicted everyday life.
The men of the tribe create the exotic paintings with bright colours mixed with milk and liquor prepared of the auspicious Mahuda tree.
The art is now dying as there are not many from the present generation who think of it as lucrative to carry on the legacy. Local leaders say the reason is that each painting takes several weeks to complete and has no takers the cost of running families is high and youths are attracted towards other jobs that give them better returns. Less than a hundred artists practising the art are now present in the region. The museum in Chhota Udepur houses several ancient and rare tribal artefacts.