June 8, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether the delimitation process is rigged against southern states. We also look at air purifiers in buses in West Bengal, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Is the delimitation process rigged against southern states?
Every Member of Parliament represents the people who voted for them and the geographic territory they contested from. It becomes all the more pertinent in geographies reserved for Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) leaders. Reserved constituencies strengthen the representation of marginalised communities in the legislature. Creating and adjusting constituencies requires avoiding undermining the people’s voice, preventing partisan manipulation, and ensuring fair representation in the legislature.
The Delimitation Commission of India oversees redrawing boundaries for Lok Sabha and assembly elections. Like several other countries, including the United States, it does so based on the latest census. Recently, however, Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader and Telangana Minister KT Rama Rao called delimitation a “gross injustice” to the southern states. He was particularly criticising using the population criterion. Is there any truth to his concerns?
Since the freeze on readjusting inter-state constituencies is about to come undone in 2026, it’s raked up some old debates on the process’ credibility. But before we get into that, let’s look at delimitation more closely. Article 82 of the Constitution prescribes that the government readjust constituency boundaries after each census. It’s done to ensure constituencies keep up with population changes.
Naturally, it means states with a higher population, like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh, will have more representation in the Lok Sabha. It elevates the importance meted out to North India in elections and Parliament.
Now, most countries entrust this task to a high-powered body with varying degrees of interference from the government. Most countries try to keep government interference low. After all, the task at hand is pivotal in ensuring free and fair elections. The Delimitation Commission in India and the United Kingdom (UK) are neutral. New Zealand involves some party participation, and the US has complete party involvement.
In India, the Commission includes three individuals, typically judges from the Supreme Court and High Courts and the Chief Election Commissioner. Nine politicians from different political backgrounds are involved in the deliberations for each state, four from the Lok Sabha and five from the Vidhan Sabhas.
Previous governments have scrupulously ensured that the delimitation process goes smoothly. The Commission’s proposals are submitted for public viewing, objections, and suggestions. Why, you ask? It’s possibly because the commission’s decisions cannot be challenged in any court.
Such commissions have been set up four times until now – in 1952, 1962, 1972, and 2002. After the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha delimitation in 1972, the Indira Gandhi-led government froze the process for 25 years. During that time, the government focused on containing India’s rapid population spurt. It had recently taken up the infamous forced mass sterilisation programme. To top it off, family planning schemes seemed to be working only in states where literacy levels were high, like Kerala.
So, the government decided that delimitation would prove counterproductive. If state governments could augment their presence in the Lok Sabha based on their population, would they focus on reducing fertility rates?
Then the 2001 census happened, and the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government decided to partially adjust the constituencies. Whereas SC and ST constituencies and assembly seats were redistributed according to the latest census, the state-wise proportion of Lok Sabha MPs remained the same. The government pushed it for another 25 years.
2026 isn’t that far away, and there are reports that the BJP government will implement delimitation if it retains power next year. The same fears that perturbed previous dispensations are beginning to creep up. But if a delimitation does occur, is it right to believe it’ll harm southern states?
VIEW: Trust the process
It’s no secret that the current distribution of constituencies is outdated. The last Lok Sabha readjustment happened in 1976. It can’t ensure a fair representation of the population in the legislature. Continuing the freeze streak on delimitation wouldn’t do much except absolve the government from making tough decisions. Any democratic country that holds elections through constituencies requires a regular adjustment of those boundaries.
It’s also uncertain whether losing seats in the parliament would have any regressive effects on the southern states’ achievements in population control. There’s not much empirical evidence yet on whether delimitation would alter the state-wise patterns of planned parenthood to unplanned procreation in the South.
Besides, it’s not as if the Delimitation Commission is going to arbitrarily impose its decision. As argued before, there will be enough space for suggestions and alternatives to accommodate the interests of every state. It may even give way to valuable modifications in the delimitation process. There are reports that the Union government is considering increasing the cap on seats in Parliament from the present 550. It’ll mean that southern states wouldn’t have to lose their seats.
COUNTERVIEW: It won’t do any good
The disproportionate outcomes of a prospective Lok Sabha delimitation are clear. If India redistributes seats between states, the North Indian states will possibly have an additional 32 seats. It will have the opposite effect on southern states, which could likely lose 24 seats in the Lok Sabha. Political parties, like the BJP, that draw support from mostly from the north, will have an edge.
If India uses the 2011 census to assign seats to states proportionate to their population, Uttar Pradesh could end up with 143 Lok Sabha seats – 63 more seats than it holds now. Kerala would remain with the same 20 seats. For many, these disproportionate outcomes amount to the disenfranchisement of the southern states.
States with fewer constituencies and representatives are likely to be allocated fewer resources. Some call it an unjust measure that penalises states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka that have successfully contained population growth. Kerala’s finance minister claimed that the Union government is already carrying out population-based resource allocation of central taxes. The South could lose out on a lot.
- ‘Gross injustice to South’: Telangana IT minister on Lok Sabha delimitation based on population – Indian Express
- Delimitation, Democracy, and End of Constitutional Freeze – EPW
- Mrs. Gandhi Concedes India Is Lagging in Population Control – The New York Times
- How Delimitation Exercise Is A Great Distribution Challenge In India – Outlook
- North-South Divide and Delimitation Blues – EPW
- How census-based delimitation for Lok Sabha seats could shake up politics & disadvantage south – The Print
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) Delimitation will harm the southern states.
b) Delimitation won’t harm the southern states.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
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🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
New ethanol plant to benefit farmers (Himachal Pradesh) – The Central government has granted approval for the construction of an ethanol plant in the Una district of Himachal Pradesh. Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) will be responsible for its establishment. According to an official spokesperson, Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu’s dedicated efforts have led to the Centre’s decision to establish the ethanol plant in the Una district. The plant will occupy an area of 30 acres and involve an estimated expenditure of ₹500 crore.
Why it matters: The spokesperson stated that the ethanol plant will significantly contribute to the economic well-being of the farmers in the region, as it will source major raw materials such as rice, sugarcane, and maize from Kangra, Hamirpur, Bilaspur, and Una districts. Moreover, the plant will generate employment and self-employment opportunities for the local residents and farmers hailing from Kangra, Hamirpur, Bilaspur, and other areas within the state. Additionally, the project will expedite the pace of development in the state while generating an annual revenue of approximately ₹20 to ₹25 crore through state GST for the exchequer.
Plans to build a new toys’ park (Telangana) – Telangana is embarking on a significant endeavour by establishing its own dedicated toys’ park, aimed at manufacturing a wide range of children’s products such as dolls, gadgets, entertainers, and essential items. This initiative is expected to reduce India’s reliance on Chinese toys. Located in Dandu Malkapur, Yadadri Bhuvanagiri, the exclusive facility will have state-of-the-art infrastructure and top-notch amenities. Its primary aim is to foster the production of various types of toys, including soft toys, STEM toys, electronic toys, plastic toys, non-toxic toys, silicone toys, and eco-friendly toys.
Why it matters: The Telangana Toys’ Park is expected to create numerous job prospects, particularly benefiting rural youth, local residents, and regional artisans engaged in crafting wooden toys. The park will house a toy museum, a common facility centre, a research and development facility, a skill development centre, and a children’s amusement park. Thanks to the proactive measures and business-friendly initiatives of the Telangana government, the toy manufacturing sector is poised for rapid growth, positioning Telangana as a leader in toy exports from India.
Buses to get air purifiers (West Bengal) – According to the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB), the state government of West Bengal has introduced buses equipped with air purifiers in the capital city, Kolkata, as an effort to mitigate the pollution levels. The Bus Roof Mounted Air Purification System (BRMAPS), known as ‘Suddha Vayu,’ is the first of its kind in India, as stated in an official release by the WBPCB.
Why it matters: As an additional feature, the BRMAPS will be equipped with sensors to monitor the real-time air quality of the surrounding environment as the vehicle travels on the roads. These sensors will measure various factors including the concentration of particulate matter, which consists of fine inhalable particles that are 7 to 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair. The air purifiers installed in the buses are equipped with highly efficient filters that can effectively reduce the levels of polluting gases and suspended particles by approximately 90%. These filters include high-efficiency particulate absorbing filters and activated carbon filters.
Mumbai secures top spot as most expensive city (Maharashtra) – As per Mercer’s 2023 Cost of Living survey report, Mumbai has emerged as the costliest city in India for expatriates, with New Delhi and Bengaluru securing the second and third positions, respectively. The survey encompasses 227 cities across five continents, where Mumbai maintains its position as the most expensive city in India for expats, while globally, Hong Kong claims the top spot.
Why it matters: The Cost of Living survey conducted by Mercer assesses the relative expenses of over 200 items in various locations, encompassing categories such as housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods, and entertainment. The report also highlights that Indian cities, including Mumbai (147) and Delhi (169), present cost-effective options for global multinational corporations (MNCs) aiming to establish their presence abroad. These cities offer a lower cost of living and expat accommodation expenses compared to prominent cities in the Asia Pacific region, such as Shanghai, Beijing, and Tokyo.
Umiam dam on the brink of shutdown (Meghalaya) – The state of Meghalaya has been grappling with a severe power crisis in recent weeks, and the situation is expected to worsen in the upcoming days. Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma expressed concern over the dwindling water level at the Umiam dam, which is utilized for hydel electricity generation. The dam is nearing its minimum threshold and may soon be forced to cease operations.
Why it matters: The Chief Minister lamented the challenging circumstances faced by the state, citing the inadequate rainfall received in the past few months. He emphasized that this has been one of the most challenging periods for Meghalaya in terms of rainfall, leading to the critical state of the Umiam dam. CM Conrad provided further details, stating that over the past two years, the state government has been allocating approximately ₹600 crore from its revenue to cover various expenses, including the procurement of power from MeECL (Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited), in order to sustain the existing power levels.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
50% – The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has reached a new record, surpassing levels from pre-industrial times by over 50%.