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Delimitation Based on 2001 Census Cannot be Fair with Some Hill Districts Showing Unrealistic 169pc Decadal Population Growth

A delimitation of Assembly and Parliamentary Constituencies based on the 2001 census cannot be fair as there are some very abnormal and unrealistic population growth figures reported from many hill districts. While the average decadal population growth in the valley has been around 18 percent, in the hill districts, the figure ranges from 40 to as much as 169 percentile population growth. Considering population growth has three factors contributing to it, birth, death and migration, some of these figures are simply impossible to be accounted for under these heads. It would therefore be prudent for the Government of India to wait for a more closely monitored, adhaar card verified population census of 2021 and then go ahead with the delimitation in 2026. In the following lines, I highlight some of the salient features of data available supporting this proposal.

According to online dictionary, delimitation means “the action of fixing the boundary or limits of something”. In the context of delimitation of Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies, it is an exercise undertaken by Delimitation Commission under Delimitation Act in order to define the boundaries or limits of such territorial constituencies on the map. The website of the Election Commission of India explains delimitation in India as: “Delimitation literally means the act or process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a country or a province having a legislative body. The job of delimitation is assigned to a high-power body. Such a body is known as Delimitation Commission or a Boundary Commission. In India, such Delimitation Commissions have been constituted 4 times – in 1952 under the Delimitation Commission Act, 1952, in 1963 under Delimitation Commission Act, 1962, in 1973 under Delimitation Act, 1972 and in 2002 under Delimitation Act, 2002. The Delimitation Commission in India is a high-power body whose orders have the force of law and cannot be called in question before any court. These orders come into force on a date to be specified by the President of India in this behalf. The copies of its orders are laid before the House of the People and the State Legislative Assembly concerned, but no modifications are permissible therein by them. (Source:

https://eci.gov.in/delimitation-website/delimitation/).

In the process of delimitation, Delimitation Commission is required to decide on the boundaries of territorial constituencies of Parliament and State Legislative Assembly, but it has to carry out readjustment. Cambridge Dictionary, online, defines readjustment as “the process of changing in order to fit a different situation, or the act of changing something slightly in order to improve it”.

Why do we need delimitation and readjustment after census operation? The very basis of representation of people in both the House of People (Lok Sabha) and State Legislative Assemblies by the elected representatives is the population in each constituency. The change in population in the constituency over the course of time leads to wide difference in population among the constituencies and such changes requires delimitation and readjustment by the Delimitation Commission to achieve the goals of having, as far as possible, population in each constituency and to provide for reservation of seats in the Parliament and State legislative Assemblies for the people belonging to Schedule Tribes and Schedule Castes. These objectives are sought to be achieved by following the provisions of Delimitation Act. Relevant provisions of the present Delimitation Act, 2002, which will guide the Delimitation Commission in the ongoing delimitation and readjustment of seats in Manipur based on Census 2001 is given below:

  1. Readjustment of number of seats. —The Commission (Delimitation Commission) shall, having regard to the provisions of articles 81, 170, 330 and 332(of the Constitution of India), and also, in relation to the Union territories, except National Capital Territory of Delhi, sections 3 and 39 of the Government of Union Territories Act, 1963 (20 of 1963) and in relation to the National Capital Territory of Delhi sub-clause (b) of clause (2) of article 239AA, by order, determine, —

(a) on the basis of the census figures as ascertained at the census held in the year 1971 and subject to the provisions of section 4(of Delimitation Act,2002), the number of seats in the House of the People to be allocated to each State and determine on the basis of the census figures as ascertained at the census held in the year 2001 the number of seats, if any, to be reserved for the Scheduled Castes and for the Scheduled Tribes of the State; and

(b) on the basis of the census figures as ascertained at the census held in the year 1971 and subject to the provisions of section 4, the total number of seats to be assigned to the Legislative Assembly of each State and determine on the basis of the census figures as ascertained at the census held in the year 2001 the number of seats, if any, to be reserved for the Scheduled Castes and for the Scheduled Tribes of the State:

Provided that the total number of seats assigned to the Legislative Assembly of any State under clause (b) shall be an integral multiple of the number of seats in the House of the People allocated to that State under clause (a).”

The Section 8(a) above is the guiding principle to determine the number of seats allocated to each state and Union Territory of India in the Lok Sabha based on the Census Report of 1971. It means that the number of seats in the Lok Sabha of each state and Union Territory is frozen at the number fixed based on 1971 Census. The second part of section 8(b) of the Delimitation Act reproduced above states that the Delimitation Commission shall decide the number of seats to be reserved for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes of the State based on Census 2001 in the House of People (Lok Sabha). What is the implication of these provisions on the present delimitation and readjustment exercise for Manipur? There will be no change in the number of seats, i.e., two allocated to Manipur-Inner Manipur Parliamentary Constituency(unreserved) and Outer Manipur Parliamentary Constituency (reserved for Scheduled Tribes).

  1. Delimitation of constituencies.— (1) The Commission shall, in the manner herein provided, then, distribute the seats in the House of the People allocated to each State and the seats assigned to the Legislative Assembly of each State as readjusted on the basis of 1971 census to single-member territorial constituencies and delimit them on the basis of the census figures as ascertained, at the census held in the year 1 [2001], having regard to the provisions of the Constitution, the provisions of the Act specified in section 8 and the following provisions, namely:— (a) all constituencies shall, as far as practicable, be geographically compact areas, and in delimiting them regard shall be had to physical features, existing boundaries of administrative units, facilities of communication and public convenience; (b) every assembly constituency shall be so delimited as to fall wholly within one parliamentary constituency; (c) constituencies in which seats are reserved for the Scheduled Castes shall be distributed in different parts of the State and located, as far as practicable, in those areas where the proportion of their population to the total is comparatively large; and (d) constituencies in which seats are reserved for the Scheduled Tribes shall, as far as practicable, be located in areas where the proportion of their population to the total is the largest. (2) The Commission shall— (a) publish its proposals for the delimitation of constituencies, together with the dissenting proposals, if any, of any associate member who desires publication thereof, in the Gazette of India and in the Official Gazettes of all the States concerned and also in such other manner as it thinks fit; (b) specify a date on or after which the proposals shall be further considered by it; (c) consider all objections and suggestions which may have been received by it before the date so specified, and for the purpose of such consideration, hold one or more public sittings at such place or places in each State as it thinks fit; and (d) thereafter by one or more orders determine— (i) the delimitation of parliamentary constituencies; and (ii) the delimitation of assembly constituencies, of each State.

However, the proposal for a delimitation of constituencies based on the 2001 census is met with objections from a large section of the people and political establishment in Manipur. The highlights of these can be seen from the following representations by an all-party delegation from the state to the Election Commission on “Delimitation in Manipur based on inaccurate, inflated and wrong census figures of Census of India, 2001 in respect of Manipur-request for deferment to 2026”.

The letter is being reproduced below:

Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee(MPCC), Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP)(Manipur Unit), Communist Party of India(CPI) and seven other political parties functioning in Manipur, despite differences among them, came together and filed a writ petition before the Guwahati High Court with Union of India and others as respondents, challenging the proposed readjustment and delimitation under the Delimitation Act, 2002 in the state of Manipur based on the provisional Census of India Report of 2001, as published by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. There was a hue and cry from the several civil society organizations and the public in Manipur, expressed through the print and electronic media in response to the abnormal, unnatural, impossible and unreliable growth of population in 9(nine) sub-divisions of 3(three) hill districts, namely, Senapati, Ukhrul and Chandel as shown in the Provisional Census figures mentioned above. There was no reasonable explanation for the abnormal growth of population in the nine sub-divisions.

  1. The following are the growth rate of population as revealed by 2001 Census Report:
  1. Details of abnormal decadal growth in population from 1991 to 2001 in the 9(nine) hill sub-divisions of Manipur is given below:
  1. The State Government of Manipur, in response to the public hue and cry to the abnormal growth of population in the State, had constituted a Committee vide Office Memorandum No.5/1(57)/99-H(Census) dated 9.7.2003 to enquire into the abnormal increase in population in 9(nine) hill sub-divisions of Manipur with the following composition:

The Committee submitted its report with the finding that there was abnormal growth of population in 4(four) Sub-divisions, i.e., Mao-Maram, Paomata, Purul and Chakpikarong and high growth of population in the remaining five sub-divisions in the hill districts, which cannot be explained rationally. It also recommended for verification of census figures of population in the above mentioned sub-divisions. The State Government of Manipur requested the Registrar General of India to rectify the wrong census figures. In a writ petition, W.P(PIL) No.53/2003  filed by the Lawyers Guild before the Guwahati High Court, the Division Bench was pleased to pass an order on 24.2.2004 directing the Registrar General & Census Commissioner of India to consider the representation made by the State Government of Manipur as well the representation of Lawyer’s Guild before publication of final Census Report. It was also ordered in the WP(PIL) No.53/2003 that Delimitation Commission of India should not issue orders under the Delimitation Act, 2002 delimiting constituencies and readjusting seats of Parliament and State Assembly till the final Census Report was published.

The Registrar General  & Census Commissioner of India revised the census figure of three sub-divisions of Mao-Maram, Paomata and Purul of Senapati district to 39 percent cadal growth rate without changing the figures of remaining six sub-divisions. Being aggrieved with the decision of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, the petitioners, namely Manipur Congress Party, Bharatiya Janata Party and eight other political parties filed the writ petition referred to at para 1 above before the Guwahati High Court to issue directions to the Delimitation Commission of India not to issue orders of delimitation and adjustment of seats to the House of the People and Manipur Legislative Assembly. Operative part of the order passed by the Division bench of the Guwahati High Court in the said writ petition on 19th January, 2007 is reproduced below:

“For the reasons discussed above and also considering the peculiar facts and circumstances of the present case, the respondents are hereby directed to re-count the heads of the population in the said 9 hill sub-divisions of the hill districts of Senapati, Ukhrul and Chandel of the State of Manipur for publishing another Census report of India 2001 in respect of the said 9 hill sub-divisions and the present final Census Report of India 2001 for the said 9 hill sub-divisions of the 3 hill districts of Senapati, Ukhrul and Chandel shall not be taken as the Census Report of India 2001 for readjustment of number of seats and delimitation of constituencies of the State of Manipur under Sections 8 and 9 of the Delimitation  Act, 2002 by the Delimitation Commission.

  1. With the above observations and directions, this writ petition stands allowed. Parties shall bear their own costs.”

In the Press Note No.282/DEL/2007 dated the 17th July, 2007 issued by the Delimitation Commission of India, the directions of the Guwahati High Court referred above and subsequent Special Leave Petition before the Supreme Court of India in that regard are mentioned as given below:

“As regards the State of Manipur, the Guwahati High Court vide its judgment dated 19-01-2007 had directed fresh census in respect of three hilly districts of Manipur and till the completion of the census the delimitation exercise had been stayed. Union of India had filed a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court of India, which came for -2- preliminary hearing on July 13, 2007, and the Hon’ble Supreme Court while issuing notice in the Special Leave Petition has granted interim stay of the impugned order of the Guwahati High Court. In view of this, the Manipur delimitation work, which was stayed because of the pendency of the Guwahati High Court’s order, would be resumed and completed by 30th of September 2007.”

Later on, on the basis of letter submitted by me to the then Hon’ble Prime Minister and representations from various civil society organizations in Manipur, the Government of India issued an order No. S.O. 286(E) dated the 8th February, 2008 deferring the process and exercise of delimitation with the following conclusion:

“Now, therefore, keeping in view the serious problem in the State of Manipur and to obviate the above problems, the President, in exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (l) of Section lOA of the Delimitation Act, 2002 (33 of2002), and on being satisfied that a situation has arisen where unity and integrity of India is likely to be threatened and there is a serious threat to the peace and public order, hereby defer the delimitation exercise in the State of Manipur with immediate effect and until further orders.”

 

After the lapse of 12 years, on the 28th February, 2020, the Government of India decided to resume the delimitation exercise which was deferred on account of the anticipated problems of threat to unity and integrity of the country and public order, by cancelling the above order No.S.O.286(E)  dated 8th February, 2008 and constituting a new Delimitation Commission.

The grounds on the basis of which delimitation in Manipur was deferred have not changed at all. Abnormal growth of population in the 9 sub-divisions of 3 hill districts of Manipur, reported in Census of India Report, 2001 has not been rectified by the Registrar General & Census Commissioner of India. The delicate and sensitive relationship between the people living in the valley areas of Manipur with those living in hills will be disturbed when delimitation exercise is undertaken based on incorrect census data of 2001, which contains abnormal population growth upto 169 percent, and possible loss of seats of Assembly constituencies in the valley to the constituencies in the hill areas.

So far as population growth in any region or state is concerned, there are three main causes, namely, birth rate, death rate and migration. Both birth and death rates in the 9 sub-divisions in 3 hill districts of Manipur cannot be different in a big way from those in the rest of the state of Manipur. Further, being located in the remote hill areas of the state, people from those areas migrate to the valley areas near the capital city of Imphal as better facilities are available there. There are a large number of new settlements at places known as Nagaram, Dewlaland, Sangakpham, Langol, etc., which are in the Greater Imphal areas, i.e., in valley inhabited by people who have migrated from the hills. Therefore, there is no reasonable justification for the abnormal growth of population upto 169%(decadal) in the said 9 sub-divisions. The population data in these sub-divisions as reported by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner in the 2001 Census Report with the apparent abnormal growth of population should not be used as basis for an important exercise like delimitation of constituencies.

The representation of people in the State Assembly and House of the People through election, constituency-wise, is the basic foundation of democracy as enshrined in the Constitution of India. People living in the valley areas of Manipur are now apprehensive of loss of about 3 Assembly Constituencies to the Hill Areas of the State after the Delimitation Commission issues their order based on 2001 Census Report. Any such disturbance in the representation in the Assembly based on incorrect census data will lead to communal clash between the people living in the valley districts and those living in the hill districts.

There has been one more census operation in 2011. The next Census operation for 2021 is already due now. The present census operation can be made more authentic by using Aadhar data in order to exclude non-existent people creeping in the census data. Census data of 2001 is already very old and it is under question. It will be in the best interest of all concerned, to defer the present delimitation and take up new delimitation based on 2021 Census Report. It may be mentioned that a new Section 10B was inserted in the Delimitation Act, 2002 in order to defer the delimitation exercise in Jharkhand to 2026 on the ground of law and order. Similar amendment may be considered for the state of Manipur in the interest of all concerned.

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