Srinagar: After having threadbare discussions with the JK’s political parties, civil society groups, and NGO heads, the Delimitation Commission on Friday said the exercise to re-draw boundaries of Assembly constituencies of the UT is a “very complex issue and not a mere arithmetic.”
The commission, however, said that the delimitation process will be completed in a very transparent manner and the draft prepared by it will be put in a public domain for objections and queries after which associate members of the commission will also be consulted for preparing the final draft.
The members of the commission also hinted at giving a due representation to the people belonging to Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Cast groups in the upcoming Assembly.
Addressing a presser in Jammu on the last day of the four-day-long visit, Commission member Sushil Chander, Chief Election Commissioner of India, who is the Ex-officio member of JK Delimitation Commission said: “In the past four days, the commission met 290 groups in Srinagar, Pahalgam, Kishtwar and Jammu. There was an overwhelming response and people travelled from long distances to meet us. We listened to every delegation patiently.” He said that the delimitation process in JK is a very complex issue and not just mere arithmetic.”
Chander said that JK officials provided them with the details of the last available census that is—2011, patwar halqas and the district areas, population figures, etc.
“In the last census done in 2001, there were only 12 districts and the number of districts has now gone up to 12. Similarly, there were only 58 tehsils, which at present are 270. We could observe that there is a huge administrative overlapping of patwar halqas due to which people are facing huge inconvenience,” he said.
He said that they did not just meet the leaders from the political parties, but civil society groups, lawyers, individuals, tribals, local bodies’ leaders and heads of NGOs too.
“We are quite happy to see great participation in the process. I would say that difficult terrain wasn’t acknowledged in the earlier delimitation done in 1995. Population has to be the main criteria for delimitation but priority will be also the area, geography, topography, and also the communication facilities of the areas,” he said.
Assembly seats in JK were delimited in 1963, 1973 and 1995. The last exercise was conducted by the Justice (retired) K K Gupta Commission when the state was under President’s Rule and was based on the 1981 census, which formed the basis of the state elections in 1996. There was no census in the state in 1991 and no Delimitation Commission was set up by the then state government after the 2001 census as the J&K Assembly had passed a law putting a freeze on the fresh delimitation of seats until 2026.
“We will keep in mind the census of 2011. As per the delimitation act, we have to go by the latest census available,” he said, adding that the act guarantees due representation to the SC and ST categories.
To a query that PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti has alleged that delimitation was already a pre-planned exercise and the final report was already ready, Commission head Retd. Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai said that she assures that the exercise will be transparent in nature and there should be no fears and doubts. Asked how she views the PDP chief’s decision of boycotting the meeting with the commission, the commission chief said: “We can only talk to those who want to participate in the process. Those who don’t want to have their own choice.”
About when would the commission be able to prepare the final report, member of the Commission, Chander said that they have got the feedback and a draft will be prepared and the same will be put in the public domain. “We will also consult the associate members of the commission to get their views after which a final draft will also be prepared and the same will be put in the public domain too for objections and queries,” he said.
Replying to a query about what would be the fate of 24 seats reserved for the residents of Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) in the Assembly, Chander said the seats will continue to remain reserved.
The commission had arrived in Srinagar on July 6 as part of the four-day-long visit aimed at meeting various political parties and civil society groups as part of its feedback mission. Soon after the presser, the Commission wrapped up their four-day visit to J&K and air-dashed to New Delhi.