- This article tries to analyze how changes in population geography have a lasting impact on the political and economic geography in Indian federal democracy.
- Also it insists that the five southern States that have effectively controlled their population should not be penalized through reduced political representation.
What is delimitation?
- Delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and state Assembly seats to represent changes in population.
- The main objective of delimitation is to provide equal representation to equal segments of a population. It also aims at a fair division of geographical areas so that one political party doesn’t have an advantage over others in an election.
- In India, delimitation is carried out by an independent Delimitation Commission.
- Under Article 82, the constitution gives power to the Parliament of India to enact a law for the purpose of Delimitation. The Delimitation commission, a statutory body, is set up under the law enacted by the parliament of India.
Delimitation and political representation
- Article 81 of the Indian Constitution stipulates that Lok Sabha constituencies in the country should be equal by the size of population.
- Based on the 1971 Census, the number of Lok Sabha constituencies for States was determined and frozen for the next 25 years through the 42nd Amendment Act 1976.
- In 2001, through the 84th Amendment Act, the freeze on the number of constituencies for each State was further prolonged until the first Census after 2026.
Issues surrounding delimitation
- Differentiate growth rate in population: The population growth rates differ between the non-Hindi speaking southern States and the Hindi-speaking northern States.
- Between 1971 and 2011, the proportion of the population of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh increased from 44% to 48.2%, whereas the proportion of population of the five southern States (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana) declined from 24.9% to 21.1%.
Impact of delimitation on southern states
- Decline in Lok Sabha seats: If equal size of Lok Sabha constituencies by population is enforced according to the population projections of 2023, the proportion of political representation of northern States will increase by 6.81% and that of southern States will decline by 4.24%(loss of 23 seats).
- Unbalanced political representation: The problem of balancing the political representation of sub-central units that have lower populations arises in all federations.
- Leads to penalizing southern states: Reduced political representation amounts to penalisation of states that have implemented family planning and population control policies and effectively controlled their population.
- Disincentivizes states to take up population control measures: Reducing the proportional representation of southern States in the national Parliament is not only a disincentive for these States but also an incentive for others (northern states) not to take population control and social change as public policy seriously.
- Reduced fiscal transfers: The combined share of the five southern States in the Union government’s tax revenue from 2000-05 to 2021-26 declined from 21.1% to 15.8%. On the contrary, the combined share of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh increased from 51.5% to 53.2%.
- Why reduction in fiscal transfers? Population (a measure of demand for public expenditure) and per capita income of a State are considered to be two important indicators that are always included in the distribution formula for the horizontal distribution of the Union government’s tax revenue among the States.
- As the terms of reference of the Fifteenth Finance Commission took 2011 population in the distribution formula, it made the southern States to face reduced financial transfers from the Union government as a reward for controlling population growth.
- The higher the per capita income of a State, the lower its share in the Union tax revenue. Lower per capita income of a State may be due to higher population for a given Gross State Domestic Product. Therefore, the higher the current population of a State, the higher its share in the Union tax revenue.
- Using the current population for delimitation of Lok Sabha constituencies by equalizing population and in the distribution formula for assignment of Union government tax revenue to States is clear retribution for the population control efforts of the southern States and a transparent accolade for the higher growth rate of population in the northern States.
- Thus continuing with the freeze on the distribution of seats among States as they were in 1971 till the population stabilizes in all States is the only way out.