9 seats reserved for STs, 7 for SCs; suggestions invited by Dec 31
Distts categorized, population density, shelling, remoteness among criteria
NC leaders satisfied with Comm’s parameters: Dr Jitendra
JAMMU, Dec 20: In a major bid to end decades long political disempowerment of Jammu region, the Delimitation Commission today proposed allocation of six out of seven Assembly seats to Jammu and one to the Kashmir valley out of a total of seven seats increased for the Legislative Assembly of the Union Territory and also announced reservation of nine seats for Scheduled Tribes and seven for Scheduled Castes.
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Even if the proposal mooted by the Delimitation Commission headed by Justice (Retired) Ranjana Prakash Desai which was shared with five Associate Members in a meeting in New Delhi today is through, Kashmir division will still have four more seats from Jammu region.
Apart from Justice Desai, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sushil Chandra, State Election Commissioner KK Sharma and Chief Electoral Officer J&K Hridesh Kumar attended the meeting with five Associate members including Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Dr Jitendra Singh, Jugal Kishore Sharma (both from BJP and Lok Sabha MPs from Jammu region), Dr Farooq Abdullah, Mohammad Akbar Lone and Justice (Retd) Hasnain Masoodi, all from NC and Parliamentarians from the Valley.
The Commission told the Associate Members that out of seven seats increased in the Legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir (from 83 to 90), six have been proposed for Jammu region and one for Kashmir division.
The Commission also briefed the Associate Members that it proposed to reserve nine seats in the Legislative Assembly for Scheduled Tribes and seven for Scheduled Castes.
While seven seats were already reserved for SCs (eight percent) in the last Assembly, the STs will get nine reserved seats (10 percent) for the first time. There was no political reservation to the STs in the Legislative Assembly and it was granted when the Central Government abrogated special status of erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated it into two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh.
“In the new Assembly, all seats will be well within the boundaries of 20 districts and no seats will overlap from one district to the other as is the case presently,” the Commission told the Associate Members. It said since the last delimitation held in 1995, the number of districts has increased from 12 to 20 and number of tehsils from 52 to 207 in Jammu and Kashmir and , in the absence of delimitation, the Assembly seats crossed boundaries of the districts.
The Commission told the Associate Members that it categorized all 20 districts in three broad categories of A, B and C giving margin of +/- 10 percent of average population per Assembly constituency while proposing allocation of seats to the districts.
“The Commission has also, for some districts, proposed carving out of an additional seat to balance the representation of geographical areas having inadequate communication and lack of public conveniences due to their excessive remoteness or inhospitable conditions on the International Border (IB),” the Panel said.
The Commission informed that population density in the districts of J&K varies from 29 persons per square kilometer in Kishtwar to 3436 persons per square kilometer in Srinagar. The UT also share international boundary with Pakistan and in those locations, the inhabitants are forced to take shelter, intermittently in bunkers due to continued inhospitable and uncertain living conditions, it added.
Chief Election Commissioner Subash Chandra quoted Sections which specify that all constituencies shall, as far as practicable, be geographically compact areas, and regard shall be had to physical features, existing boundaries of administrative units, facilities of communication and public conveniences.
In the last Assembly of 87 constituencies, Kashmir had 46, Jammu 37 and Ladakh four. Under J&K Reorganization Act passed by the Parliament, J&K was accorded 90 seat Assembly. Four seats of Ladakh were reduced as it was made a separate Union Territory thus increasing seats by seven.
As per the Delimitation Commission’s proposal, Kashmir will now have 47 Assembly seats and Jammu 43.
In 1995 delimitation, Jammu’s seats had gone up from 32 to 37, Kashmir’s from 43 to 46 and that of Ladakh from two to four while total of J&K had increased from 76 to 87.
After Delimitation Commission’s meeting, Union Minister Jitendra Singh on Monday said that National Conference (NC) leaders got satisfied with the parameters that are being followed by the Commission.
Speaking to media persons, Union Minister in the PMO Dr Jitendra Singh said, “All the Associate Members committed themselves to cooperate with the functioning of the Commission. The Commission has done a tremendous job. We must appreciate they had followed certain laid down parameters on the basis of which they have come out with the documents which are very objectively done.”
He said National Conference (NC) members were also satisfied with the parameters which were being followed by the Delimitation Commission.
“The Associated Members regardless of their party and political affiliations not only appreciated the work done by the Delimitation Commission but also committed that they would in the future also extend their cooperation for the rest of the exercise,” Dr Jitendra Singh said.
Asked about elections, the Union Minister said, “We have no idea when the elections will be held. It will be decided by the Election Commission which is an independent body and the Government does not interfere with the functioning of the Constitutional body.”
Delimitation Commission briefed us on further proceedings, including their criteria in increasing seats district-wise. Two BJP and three National Conference, members were present. The Commission also asked us to respond to any changes/objections by Dec 31, BJP MP and Associate Member Jugal Kishore Sharma said.
National Conference president Dr Farooq Abdullah, who is also the chairman of the five-party People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), said after the meeting that he would brief the grouping as well as his party colleagues of the deliberations of the Commission.
“We attended the meeting for the first time because we wanted the voice of people of Jammu and Kashmir to be heard. The meeting took place in cordial manner and we all were explained the method adopted for coming to the conclusion,” Dr Abdullah said.
“I will discuss with my senior party leaders before sending our views to the Commission. We have also not been told about the seats that they are reserving for Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes,” he said.
However, the Commission said, it shared Paper-I describing the proposed seat allocation at the level of district with all members.
Reserved seats to be based on population
7 Distts get one extra seat
The Delimitation Commission has proposed increase of one seat each in six districts of Jammu region including Samba, Kathua, Rajouri, Kishtwar, Doda and Udhampur and one constituency in Kupwara district of Kashmir division.
However, no increase has been proposed in Jammu district where Jammu West and Jammu Cantonment (Gandhi Nagar) Assembly constituencies have over 1.5 lakh voters each and are largest segments in Jammu and Kashmir in terms of electorates.
Sources told the Excelsior that Bari Brahamana and Ramgarh areas are likely to be carved out of Vijaypur and Samba segments and likely to be made a new Assembly seat having majority voters from the areas along the International Border. While Vijaypur and Samba are likely to be Open seats, new seat is expected to be reserved for Scheduled Castes.
A new seat is expected to be created comprising hilly areas of Udhampur and Chenani. Chenani segment is likely to be de-reserved while Ramnagar could be a new constituency reserved for SCs.
In Rajouri district, a new segment is expected to be created comprising areas of Nowshera and Kalakote.
New seats in Doda, Kishtwar and Kathua are aimed at making compact seats in hilly areas.
Sources said all seven seats reserved for SCs for four terms including 1996, 2002, 2008 and 2014 elections are being de-reserved and new seats will be reserved in their place.
“Jammu district was not given any new Assembly seat in view of accessibility of voters due to good road connectivity and taking other aspects into account,” sources said but added the segments will be adjusted in such a way that good number of electorates from Jammu West and Gandhi Nagar seats are likely to be shifted to neighbouring constituencies.
“The constituencies having maximum population of SCs and STs will be reserved for them,” sources pointed out.