Delimitation exercise in Manipur,
Why call for a rethought ?

SK Singh *

The Oxford Dictionary defines 'delimit' as 'determination of limits or boundaries..'. Delimitation as its derivative is used to mean the exercise of redrawing of boundaries. It may be in the areas of boundaries of 'domestic', 'national', and 'international'.

In the context of our country, delimitation is in the context of electoral boundaries. Art 82 of the Constitution (Readjustment after each census), makes provision for delimitation of the electoral boundaries. In other words, it is the process of allocation of 'number of seats and their demarcation into territories'.

Under Art 82, the Parliament by law enacts a Delimitation Act after every census. Thereafter the Central Government constitutes a 'Delimitation Commission'. This Commission is charged with the responsibility of demarcating the boundaries of the Parliamentary Constituencies as per provisions of the Delimitation Act.

In the past four such Delimitation Commissions had been set up four times in the past. They were in 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002, under Delimitation Commission acts of 1952, 1962, 1972 and 2002.

As we are aware, 'delimitation' is the act of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and State assembly seats to represent, to translate the in-evitable changes in population of the constituencies. The underlying philosophy is simple:- as the years go by, the populations of the state and therefore of the constituencies, be they Assembly or Parliamentary, change. In the process of 'delimitation exercise', an exercise is undertaken to firm up the changes in the total number of seats based on the rise in population.

The sole objective is very precise, ideal and logical. It is to provide equal representation to equal segments of a population. Changes in population are a regular phenomenon. These changes in size of population need to be correspondingly acknowledged in that they are kept in view to 'provide equal representation to equal segments of population'.

Thus the GOI is loaded with the onerous responsibility of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and state Assembly seats to represent 'changes in population'.

Still another reason is the recognition of the fact that the number of seats allocated to different states in Lok Sabha and the total number of seats in a Legislative Assembly may also change. These changes are to be based on the actual change in population over the decades, to ensure commensurate representation to segments of population.

The immediate concern is thus the 'change in population, say of the district or the sub-division of a particular state'. The principal basis for allocation or fixing of seats is population of the state or the unit. The division of constituencies in each state is to be readjusted on the basis of the population-seat ratio. The principle governing the whole exercise may be said to be ensuring 'one vote and one value'.

There are however demands from sections of the society, more from political organizations, Civil society organizations etc. to defer the delimitation operations. The main grouse of the demand opposing the exercise is based on the consideration that the 2011 census data as 'erroneous'.

The principal reason is abnormal population growth in some of the districts, sub-divisions in the hill areas. They therefore ask for using 2021 Census data. We can examine how far this demand of 'erroneous' data is substantiated. How could census data released by the GOI be termed as 'erroneous'? That could constitute a big issue.

We can indulge in revisiting the census data of 2001 then. The decadal variation in population of the state in 2001 since the proceeding census is given as '24.50'. This is compared to 16.56% and 15.51% in Imphal West and Imphal East respectively.

The corresponding figures (pc) for the rest of the then districts are:-
i) Thoubal-26.34,
ii) Bishenpur- 13.93,
iii) Churachandpur-20.29,
iv) Tamenglong 29.23,
v) Senapati 68.94,
vi) Chandel-21.85,
vii) Ukhrul- 30.70.

Among the valley districts, Thoubal at 26.34% is highest; almost double of Bishenpur figure. Could there be some explanation, referring to this near double figure of Thoubal. Could it be associated with the alleged influx of Muslim migrants from Cachar district of Assam and even of Bangladesh? A more detailed scrutiny of the Muslim population in the district could throw some insight.

The two Imphal districts and Bishenpur district can be taken as model, exhibiting acceptable variation, even among them. For the hill districts, the highest rise at 68.94% decadal variation in Senapati is a suspect, without doubt. Tamenglong too exhibits rather high rate at 29.235; its border district Ukhrul too at 30.70% attracts curiosity. Churachandpur at 20.29% can be taken as mildly standard.

Chandel at 21.85% hovers around Churachandpur. Tamenglong too is high at 29%. Senapati which stands out heads and shoulders above the rest at 69% decadal rise in population compared to state's 25.50% or even sister districts like Tamenglong and even Ukhrul.

The whole exercise is all woven in great suspect. Even when we cross check with other tribal states or districts, they are far down the lane, nowhere near Senapati.

Given this scenario where exceedingly imbalanced population spread is given, the call of the congress party to use some other census data other than 2001 merit consideration. Their contention is that they had too approached the GOI by writing to the Election Commission of India during their reign in the state. Consequently, the exercise remained suspended till 2017-18.

The recent orders dated 28 February, 2020 of the Union government for conduct of delimitation process of the remaining four states and two union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, only shows the undue urgency attached to the delimitation exercise. Understanding the expressed anomalous disproportions in the census report in Senapati district is expeditiously required.

The highly abnormal increase in the population was noted in 9 sub-divisions including Mao-Maram,Paomata, Purul, Saitu Gamphazol, Chakpikarong, Machi, Chandel HQ, Kasom khullen and Moreh during the 2001 census.

Apart from the highly inflated population data in three sub-divisions, the rest 6 sub-divisions belong to Tengnoupal district where to large scale influx of foreigners was talked about. In addition many of the hill natives in these areas were allegedly indulging in maintaining names in the electoral rolls both in their native hill villages over and above their own registry in the Imphal valley districts across the state.

It is understandable to appreciate the intention of the Union Government to complete the delimitation process across the country without further delay. The larger question is how can the GOI ignore expressed inflation of population in select sub-divisions where the normal growth percent is either double or triple of the standard national or state average?

Any derivatives out of such highly inflated population statistics would be highly damaging and would distort the very foundation of democratic values. The damage would be irreparable.

* SK Singh wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at kunjabiharis(AT)rediffmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on June 03, 2020.

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