Ch Rashid Azam Inqlabi
The Jammu and Kashmir State bifurcated into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh on August 5, 2019. Due to which delimitation of the electoral constituencies became inevitable. Delimitation literally means the act or process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a Country to represent changes in population.
The Union Government, on March 6th, 2020 constituted a Delimitation Commission for redrawing the electoral constituencies – parliamentary as well as assembly whose term is extended for further one year. The commission remained on paper up to this time but it has held the virtual meeting with all the Deputy Commissioners of twenty districts of J&K and collected the basic data regarding the population, topography of the area, road connectivity in the area and other information.
It is a periodic exercise in electoral administration. It decides two issues of immense importance; first, the number of representatives, the Members of the Legislative Assembly within Union Territory. Second, demarcating the boundaries of the parliamentary and assembly constituencies.The Delimitation Commission is appointed by the President of India.
The present composition of Delimitation Commission is as under
(a) Retired Supreme Court Judge (Justice Ranjana Desai)
(b) Chief Election Commissioners nominee (Sushil Chandra)
(C) Chief Electoral officer of J&K (Hardish Kumar)
(D) Members of Lok Sabha from Jammu and Kashmir nominated by Speaker of Lok Sabha.
General functions of commission :
a) To determine the number and boundaries of constituencies to make population of all constituencies nearly equal.
b) To provide equal representation to equal segments of a population. Fair division of geographical areas so that one party doesn’t have an advantage over others in election.
c) To follow the principle of “One Vote One Person. Identify seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes,
In case of difference of opinion among members of the Commission, the opinion of the majority prevails. The other members such as Member of parliament nominated by speaker can take part in proceeding but they have no power to vote or sign the report. Before finalising the report the commission invites the objection and views of the public on its finding. 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.
The J&K Reorganization Act, 2019 Act says that the number of seats in the Assembly of J&K would be increased from 107 to 114. “The delimitation will be done for 90 seats as 24 seats all in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (Pok ).
Section 60, clause 2, sub-clause (b) of the J&K Reorganization Act,2019 suggests that “all constituencies shall, as far as practicable ,be geographically compact areas, and in delimiting them,regard shall be had to physical features, boundaries of administrative units, facilities of communication and conveniences to the public.
As per 2011 Census, the population in Kashmir region is 68,88,475, Jammu has a population of 53,78,538.In an answer to Lok Sabha question the Govt has described that there are 37,33,111 voters in Jammu division, 40,10,971 voters in Kashmir division and 1,79,147 voters in Ladakh division in Undivided J&K. The Delimitation Commission has to adjust the boundaries of more seats in Jammu and Kashmir
The population of Jammu and Kashmir district wise as per 2011 Census, along with area and number of legislator representing the district is as under
1) Jammu has population of 15,29,958 having area of 2,342 sq. kilometre having 11 Mla
2) Srinagar has population’s of 12, 36,829 with 1,979 sq. Kilometres having 8 Mla
3) Anantnag has population of 10,78,692 with 3,574. Kilometre area having 6 mla
4) Baramulla has population of 10,08,039 with 4243 Sq kilometres area having 6 mla.
5) Kupwara has population of 8,70,354 with. 2379 Sq kilometre area having 5 mla
6) Budgam has population of 7, 53,745 With 1361 Sq kilometre area having 5 mla
7) Rajouri has a population of 6,42,415 With 2630 Sq kilometers area having 4 mla
8) Kathua has population of 6,16,6435 With 2502 Sq kilometre area having 5 mla
9) Pulwama has population of 5,60,440 with 1086 Sq kilometer area, having 4 mla
10) Udhampur has population. 554985 with 2637 Sq kilometre having 3 mla
11) Poonch has population of 4,76,835 with 1674 Sq kilometer area having 3 mla
12) Doda has population of 4,76,835 with 1,674Sq kilometer area having 2 mla
13) Kulgam has population of 4,24,483 with 410 Sq kilometers area having 4 mla
14) Bandipor has a Population of 3,92,232 with 345 sq. kilometres area having 4 mla
15) Samba has Population of 318898 with 904 sq. kilometres area having 2 mla
16) Reasi has a Population of 3,14,667 with 1,719 sq. kilometres area having 3 mla
17) Ganderbal has Population of 2,97,446 with 259 sq. kilometers area having 2 mla
18) Ramban has a Population of 2,83,713 with 1329 sq. Kilometres area having 2 mla
19) Shopian has Population of 2,66,215 with 312 sq. kilometres area having 2 mla
20) Kishtwar has a population of 2,30,696 with 1664 sq kilometre area having 2 mla.
In Reorganisation Act the assembly segments have been raised from 83 to 90, so Delimitation Commission has to adjust these seven segment among the various districts of Jammu and Kashmir on the basis of population and area. As per international standard one person has one vote, irrespective of caste , colour and creed, whether he is rich or poor. In democracy heads are to be counted not the quality or any preference given to any one.
Any of the formula whether it is based on population or area , cannot be applied rigidly in giving the representation to the districts. The people want that they be given a senses of participation in the affairs of Government, if not a due share then a reasonable share be given to them. Particularly the hilly districts feel that they were ignored in every field of life by successive Govts since decades.Whether it is political representation or education, health sector, industry, tourism or transport facility. In hilly area representatives of people have require more than 15 days to cover his constituency , where as in the plain area in some of segments one can cover their constituency within 8 to 15 hours. In plain area one kilometer road can be constructed say with 10 lac but same one kilometer road requires more funds in hilly areas. Hilly districts like Rajouri, Doda, Udhampur and thickly populated district, Jammu , and districts as Anantnag, Baramulla and Kupwara in Kashmir province deserve more assembly seats on the basis of population and area. While examining the issue delimitation commission has to keep in mind the means of transport, communications and terrain of the area.
In Jammu province after Jammu district the Rajouri district is second as per population , having the tough terrain, having miserable road connectivity, and medical facilities which definitely deserve one more seat.
The Pakistan refugees and Kashmiri Pandit migrants are also demanding separate assembly constituency seats for them. The Sikh community has also raised the voice for reserving some assembly seats for them in the assembly. The Delimitation Commission has to work according to the law of the land as per parameter laid down by former Commission. Justice is not to be done but seems to be done with every district of the Jammu and Kashmir.
(The author is former Director School Education)