Malegaon is one of the largest cities in northwest Maharashtra with an estimated population of 12 lakh to 14 lakh. It is second largest city of Nasik district after Nasik city. The total area of the city is 12.95 sq kms in which nearly 129 slums are located.
Malegaon was known as "Mahuli Gram" under the emperor of Indra Raj (third) who belonged to the Rashtrakut King. Later in 1757, under Mughal Emperor, Malegaon was awarded to a Maratha Sardar of Peshwa – Naro Shankar Raje Bahadur. Later, he started a handloom industry in the fledgling hamlet, which developed and gave the tag to Malegaon as a noted centre of the textile industry.
In 1935, powerloom industries overcame the handloom industries, multiplied and significantly increased the employment in this sector giving a strong shape to this sector and which ultimately became the distinguishing mark of this city, as a hub for textile activity.
Since 1863, The civil administration of the town had formerly been carried out by the Municipal Council. The Council was changed into a Corporation on 17 December 2001. The Corporation is governed by the Bombay Provincial Municipal Corporation (BPMC) Act, 1949 and is bound to provide basic infrastructure such as water supply, drainage, sewerage, health, education, roads in present electoral 80 wards of the city.
October 03, 1981 was a momentous day in the history of Malegaon when the then chief minister of Maharashtra, Abdur Rehman Antulay on a day-long visit to the city announced that Malegaon would be declared a district within six months. Those present at the opening ceremony of The Malegaon Co-Operative Spinning Mills where Antulay made this announcement recalled that he had also given strong indications that May 01, 1982 would be the historic day when people in Malegaon would see this officially happening.
However, the decision was put on the backburner after Antulay relinquished office in January 1982 following the Bombay High Court order convicting him of extortion, and could not see light of the day till date.
Interestingly, political leaders and activists of Malegaon who are known for having differing perceptions even on important issues joined the chorus in its support for district status for the textile township. They jointly met every chief minister who was in the office after Antulay to remind them of the promise he had made on behalf of the state government but no one paid attention to them.
This is normal with state CMs who roll back some of the programmes of their predecessors and also set aside any proposals promised by them. The people, on the other hand, see it as a sinister attempt to deprive them of their rights by politicians of every hue.
On May 21, 1998, when former chief minister Manohar Joshi was in Malegaon to induct local Congress leader Prashant Hiray into the Shiv Sena, he also promised that his government would declare Malegaon a district very soon.
His deputy Gopinath Munde was in fact more outright. He said that only a non-Congress government like theirs could convert Malegaon into a district.
Joshi's announcement was the first firm assurance from the government after the one made by Antulay. However, few months after he made this announcement, he too was embroiled in a scam and was forced to resign from the post in January 1999.'
People of Malegaon, however, look at the issue differently. They believe that the matter is pending because of the lack of political will on the part of the government which wants to keep the matter pending. The reason for it is clear. If Malegaon gets district status, Muslim will get opportunities to progress and avail good jobs which the government does not want.
The other reason they cite is the absence of a strong local leadership. Whoever is selected as MLA or MP is a lion in while speechifying and becomes a lamb when the time for action comes.
Chief Ministers come and go. But if a government decides to do something, nothing stops it. Malegaon is not becoming a district because the government doesn’t want to do it and we don’t have anyone who can pressurise the government or arm-twist it to take positive action, people of Malegaon say.
While a formal announcement of district status is still awaited, informally some baby steps are being taken for administrative actions that are reserved for districts.
While a decision to convert Malegaon into a district is pending, the city received many facilities that are normally reserved for districts headquarters. Starting with Additional Superintendent of Police, the city was also granted Additional Session Court, RTO office, Additional Engineer MSEDCL, 200-bed hospital and was also upgraded to a Municipal Corporation. Official sources say a State Bank of India regional office is also on the cards.
It can easily be said that Malegaon is a ‘district in practice’. But why it is not converted into a ‘de-facto’ district is openly known to all of us.
Some days ago, Prithvi Raj Chauhan, the current CM of Maharashtra, under which Malegaon falls, also promised to upgrade Malegaon to a district and assured to take initial steps for it. People of the city have been waiting for the last 25 years for Malegaon to become a district. Let us see how long the wait lasts and when the teeming city is given the status with the concomitant administrative changes that come in its train.