Brushing aside calls for debate and a national consensus and warnings of opening a Pandora’s Box, Mr. Arun Jaitley, the then Law Minister, moved the bill in the Lok Sabha, a mere 3 days after laying it. One week later the Rajya Sabha passed it on 15th July 2002. A bill passed as a “routine bill” in 10days by Parliament led to feeling of outrage in various parts of the country once its legal letters were translated into political figures. Violent protests marred the visit of the Delimitation Commission to Manipur, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu and Chattisgarh.
After Independence, to reflect the growing population, the numbers of seats in Legislative Bodies were increased in 1951, 1962 & 1976 after the census which is carried out in the beginning of each decade. A Delimitation Bill was passed by the Parliament to establish a Delimitation Commission each time, which allotted seats to States based on their population. This resulted in a gradual increase in seats of the Northern States and a decrease in Southern seats, due to the failure of former to control their population. To prevent a gradual diminution of political power of the Southern States it was decided to freeze the number of seats at the 1971 census till 2000 initially and then till 2026.
The Delimitation Bill 2002 did not increase the number of seats but it sought to reorganize the Parliamentary and Assembly constituencies within a state, so that all constituencies have approximately equal population. This resulted in an increase in the number of seats of urban high density population areas and a reduction in seats in rural, adivasi and mountainous areas. A few states like Tamil Nadu witnessed a decrease in SC/ST seats. Ethnic populations in Manipur & Nagaland found themselves in a minority in the new State Assemblies; tribals of Chattisgarh happy after achieving Statehood found their representation reduces and for Uttarakhand, it is a disaster in waiting.
The Delimitation Commission, as per its mandate, remodeled Uttarakhand’s 70 Constituencies so that each had an average population of 1,21,276. As a gesture to the hill people, it reduced the population of hilly constituencies by 10% and increased the plain constituencies by 10% to 1,09,148 and 1,33,404 respectively. Even with this concession, Garhwal lost 2, Uttarkashi, Bageshwar, Pithoragarh and Almora lost one seat each. The biggest gainers were Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar with 2 each while Dehra Dun and Nainital gained one seat each. The share of seats in State Assembly of hilly areas of Uttarakhand fell from 40 to 34.
Population Growth rates are lower in the hills than plains, for example Pithoragarh has a growth rate of 10.92 as compared to 27.29 of Udham Singh Nagar and 26.3 of Haridwar. If the concept of assigning seats only on basis of population is accepted and carried on, then after the next census in 2010 this tally of 34 out of 70 will be reduced further.
The irony of the situation is further compounded by the fact that neither the two districts, nor the people of the rest of Uttarakhand, wanted the two districts to be a part of Uttarakhand and now with this delimitation they will have the controlling stakes in the State Assembly and with the next round of delimitation in 2010, the voice of the hills will be silenced forever.
The Central Government has accepted the pleas of the people of Assam, Jharkhand, Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal and J&K for similar reasons and excluded them from fresh Delimitation. The State Assemblies in these States had passed a resolution calling for exclusion from fresh Delimitation. The Uttarakhand Assembly could also discuss the issue and pass a similar resolution. The people of Uttarakhand must be made aware of the implications of the new Delimitations and the political parties must clarify their stand on the issue. If the people of Uttarakhand do not wake up now, the very concept of a hill state will be defeated.
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