Fourth delimitation exercise in Manipur
Many claimed that the delimitation exercise in Manipur was deferred till 2026, which is nothing but disinformation.
Since independence, after a Census exercise is over delimitation exercise was conducted thrice in 1952, 1963 and 1973 in the past through relevant Delimitation Commission Acts. The fourth one was under the Delimitation Commission Act of 2002. The exercise was completed for all states and Union Territories except for four North Eastern states and Jharkhand. For Jharkhand in 2008 it was frozen till 2026 while for Arunachal Pradesh, Assam Manipur and Nagaland it was deferred due to alleged security reasons. After Reorganisation of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir, there is also a need for delimitation in the three UTs formed after its trifurcation. Hence, on February 28, 2020 Government of India issued notification for delimitation in the remaining states and UTs. The reason why after Census 1981 and 1991 delimitation was not conducted was because of the uneven growth of population among the states, and those states which failed to implement the family planning program will get benefitted on the numbers of MPs.
In respect of Manipur, there seems disconnect, in that delimitation exercise under the 2002 Act was not objected on the ground of security reasons but on the incorrect Census data, which may lead to law and order problem. After the provisional figure of Census 2001 for Manipur was published, there was a hue and cry over the increase of population in respect of nine sub-divisions and the issue became a hot potato so much so that the state government in 2003 constituted a Committee headed by a Commissioner level officer which after study came to the conclusion that the figures in four sub-divisions of Mao-Maram, Paomata, Purul and Chakpikarong are abnormally high without rational explanation and recommended a verification process to ascertain the factual position and that the state government may take up the matter with the Census Commissioner/Registrar General of India.
Subsequently 10 political parties ranging from left to right, including the current main ruling party filed a PIL petition being No. 16 of 2003 before the Gauhati High Court. During the course of the hearing, 5 NGOs also joined as interveners and on 19 January 2007 a three Judge Bench passed an order in which direction was given to the respondents to recount the heads of the population in the 9 sub-divisions and for publishing another Census Report of India 2001 in respect of the 9 Sub-divisions and the present final Census report of India 2001 in Chandel, Senapati and Ukhrul shall not be taken for readjustment of seats and delimitation of constituencies of the state under Section 8 and 9 of the Delimitation Act 2002 by the Delimitation Commission. Three SLPs and another three WP (C)s were filed before the before the Hon’ble Supreme Court and on 21st August, 2008 all the six cases were clubbed together and disposed of that in view of the Government notification dated 8th February, 2008 the Court was satisfied that merits of the matter do not deserve examination and the SLPs and W.P. (C) were disposed of as infructuous. The said order does not quash or stay the orders of the Gauhati High Court though there was an interim stay during the pendency of the case, and hence the High Court orders can be deemed to survive.
There are other W.P.(C) like No. 123 of 2011 which was disposed off on 21st August, 2014 with the direction that the petitioner may file appropriate representation to the Central Government for recession of the notification dated 8th February, 2008 and on receipt of the representation the Central Government shall consider the same having regards to all relevant facts and circumstances and in accordance to law. Similarly two other WP(C) No. 326 of 2008 and 438 of 2001 were jointly considered on 21st August 2014 and disposed off after permitting the petitioner to make appropriate representation.
For better understanding, the alleged abnormal growth in the 9 sub-divisions is placed in Table 1.
Those who justified the sharp increase gave the reason as migration due to the series of ethnic violence, assuming that people from the valley migrated to the hills. However, when attempts were made to verify the figures on the ground, the villages in those sub-divisions which show highest increase did not cooperate and went into hiding. Correction made on the table pertains to only 3 sub-divisions in Senapati with all three showing a decadal growth rate of 39.16 but the figure of Chakpikarong which show a decadal growth of 118% was left untouched. Is there a sinister motive behind it or did the RGI took a cut off decadal growth rate of above 120% for table manipulation? Or does it agree that in Chandel district and Kasom Khullen there is large scale migration from neighbouring Myanmar? After the table correction in the 3 sub-divisions, the final figures were published; which many claims are totally out of sync with reality. The claim can be examined vis a vis the Aadhar cards issued.
Aadhar Card is mandatory for availing government largesse, and most of our people are poor and depend on the government largesse. Thus the poorer section of the people is keen to have Aadhar and government have sent out teams to capture the biometrics even to the remotest interior villages. Table 2 indicate the percentage of persons issued with Aadhar cards till May, 2020 against the 2011 census population figures.
Popln 2011 Census
Total Aadhar issued (in lakh)
% of Aadhar to popln
Issue of Aadhar card is an ongoing process and as the population increases with time, the number of Aadhar card issued should be higher than the 2011 census figure which is seen in the four erstwhile valley districts. In respect of the hill districts, the number of Aadhar cards issued is still too low against the 2011 population figure. From the comparison of the Aadhar cards issued and the Census figure, doubt persists on the population figures presented in Census 2001 and 2011; despite assuming that 5-10 per cent of the population in the hills may face great difficulties in getting their biometrics captured. When Churachandpur can reach 89.42 per cent, there is no valid ground why it should only be 53.86 per cent in Senapati; especially when all other erstwhile hill districts have crossed 70 per cent. People would be keen to capture their biometrics for Aadhar as it opens a number of doors for benefits starting from scholarship to rice, part employment under MGNREGA, etc. Till present, number of Aaadhar cards issued is about 25.89 lakh and not around 20 lakh claimed by certain organisation/individual. Above 90 per cent of the population as recorded in Census 2011 has been issued Aadhar card.
Many claimed that the delimitation exercise in Manipur was deferred till 2026, which is nothing but disinformation. GoI order S.O.286 (F) dated February 8, 2008 do not mention any year, it merely defers the delimitation exercise with immediate effect until further orders. The delimitation was suspended in Manipur mainly on the request of the state government for “the maintenance of status quo in the interest of peaceful co-existence of tribal and other communities in the state and its territorial integrity and the maintenance of peace and public order.”
It will be next to impossible for the Delimitation Commission to determine the boundaries of the constituencies without violating the High Court order of 2007 as without a fresh recounting it will not be possible to determine the average population for each AC. How come GoI had assumed better law and order situation now when all ACs are still under AFSPA, 1958 except for the seven Assembly segments in Imphal Municipal area; persistent opposition to the delimitation without an exercise to verify the 2001 figures, etc? The question that arises is whether the state government had intimated the Centre that the situation is now conducive for resumption of the delimitation exercise? If yes, the state government need to clarify on the matter. If not the state government should take up the matter with the Centre on how the assessment of law and order was made without involving the state government? To bring the matter to its logical conclusion, it would be advisable for one of the petitioners in the PIL filed before the High Court to file a contempt petition before the High Court of Manipur against the Government of India’s functionaries, who issued the order dated February 28, 2020 for violating the High Court’s order. Alternatively, one of the former petitioners can file a fresh petition emphasising on the Gauhati High Court Order dated January 19, 2007 and the difficulty in delimiting the constituencies as the ST population data and other demographic data was not captured in the three Sub-divisions where the population was corrected on the table.
There should not be any problems in delimitation based on authentic and reliable population figures. A few ACs gained or lost district-wise is irrelevant as Manipur will still continue to have 60 ACs. If anyone objects to delimitation per se it cannot be permitted; but to object on the ground of unauthentic population data a valid point was raised that deserves serious consideration. In fact even with the 2011 Census figures, there is always doubt, as most district has a decadal growth rate of below 25 per cent except for three hill districts that is Senapati (68 per cent), Ukhrul (30.68 per cent) and Tamenglong (26.19 per cent). The rest ranges from 13.92 per cent in Imphal West to 21.89 per cent in Churachandpur, with none of the valley districts reaching 17 per cent. This makes one suspicious of the figures incorporated in the two Censuses, especially when the Aadhar cards issued in some districts are still too low vis a vis the population figures; with no valid ground.