New Delhi: The Delimitation Commission on Jammu and Kashmir has proposed six additional assembly seats for Jammu region and one for Kashmir while reserving 16 constituencies for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
The Kashmir division currently has 46 seats and Jammu 37 seats. The Commission headed by former Supreme Court judge Ranjana Desai held its second meeting here on Monday. It has five Lok Sabha members from Jammu and Kashmir as associate members and Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra as ex-officio member.
Three Lok Sabha members of the NC, including party president and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, attended the commission meeting for the first time. Two BJP MPs, including Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh, were also present.
Sources said that the parties have been asked to submit their views on the proposed increase of seats by December 31.
The commission has proposed nine seats for STs and seven for SCs in Jammu and Kashmir, sources said.
The Delimitation Commission was set up in February 2020 after the passage of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill in Parliament in August 2019. Initially, it was asked to complete its work within a year but had to be given an extension of one year in March this year as the work could not be completed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The commission is tasked with redrawing parliamentary and assembly constituencies in the union territory.
Prime minister Narendra Modi, during a meeting with Jammu and Kashmir leaders on June 24, had said the ongoing delimitation exercise has to happen quickly so that polls can be held to install an elected government that gives strength to its development trajectory.
In a series of tweets after a three-and-a-half-hour-long meeting with 14 political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir, the prime minister said, “Our priority is to strengthen grassroots democracy in JK. Delimitation has to happen at a quick pace so that polls can happen and JK gets an elected Government that gives strength to JK’s development trajectory.”
On June 23 this year, the commission had held a meeting that was attended by all the 20 deputy commissioners of Jammu and Kashmir where inputs were gathered on how to make the assembly seats more geographically compact.
The Delimitation Commission for Jammu and Kashmir has proposed carving out an additional constituency for some districts to balance the representation for geographical areas having inadequate communication and lack of public conveniences due to their remoteness or location along the border. In a statement issued after the meeting of the Commission with its associate members, the five Lok Sabha members from Jammu and Kashmir, the panel also said that in the Union Territory, since the last delimitation, the number of districts has increased from 12 to 20 and number of tehsils from 52 to 207.
The population density in the districts of the Union Territory varies from 29 persons per square km in Kishtwar to 3,436 persons per square km in Srinagar. According to the statement, Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra, an ex officio member of the panel, shared the experiences of the Commission of interacting with people in Jammu and Kashmir during its visit.
He emphasised that the work of delimitation is being carried out within the overall statutory framework and keeping the interest of the common people of the Union Territory.
He highlighted provisions of the Delimitation Act, read with provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, specify that all constituencies shall, as far as practicable, be geographically compact areas, and regard shall be had to physical features.
Associate members, the statement said, appreciated the fact that the Commission visited Jammu and Kashmir and met a large number of people in person.
They assured that all necessary assistance would be extended in the work of delimitation, it said.
Senior Deputy EC Chandra Bhushan Kumar gave a detailed presentation on the work done by the panel.
In the Union Territory, the administration has been allocating compensatory allowance to government officials working in the specific areas on grounds of the remoteness of the place, its inaccessibility, severe inclement weather conditions, its remaining cut off from the rest of the state (now Union Territory) for a period of time, lack and gross inadequacy of medical, educational, residential and other basic amenities of life, its health hazards and similar other rigorous conditions of living, he told the meeting.
The Union Territory shares international boundary and in those locations, the inhabitants are forced to take shelter, intermittently, in bunkers due to continued inhospitable and uncertain living conditions, he noted.
“Thereafter, the Commission explained that taking all these into account, the Delimitation Commission has categorised all 20 districts in three broad categories A, B and C giving a margin of (plus-minus) 10 percent of the average population per assembly constituency while proposing an allocation of the constituencies to the districts,” the statement said.
The Commission has also, for some districts, proposed carving out of an additional constituency to balance the representation for geographical areas having inadequate communication and lack of public conveniences due to their excessive remoteness or inhospitable conditions on the international border, it said.
For the first time, in Jammu and Kashmir, nine seats are proposed to be allocated for Scheduled Tribes out of 90 seats on the basis of population. Seven seats are proposed for Scheduled Castes.
The Commission shared ‘Paper I’ (broadly speaking the draft) describing the proposed seat allocation at the level of districts with all the members with the request to furnish their views, comments and suggestions by December 31, 2021, the statement said.