Post Mortem

Yes to delimitation

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 3/14/2020 12:00:57 PM IST

 This is not a matter to be debated or opposed. It is supposed to be a matter of great national import constitutionally enforceable by the immutable order of the President. When was the last time a presidential order was forced to retract? Yet one can’t say the unthinkable cannot happen in Nagaland, an interesting state made so by its own oddities and idiosyncrasies. It may actually shoot down the delimitation process in the state yet again with the ridiculous use of the peace process for an excuse and leave a nation and its president drop their jaws.

Delimitation Act, 2002 could not be implemented in the state because of opposition to it in the name of the ongoing Naga peace talks. It appeared, then, reasonable to hold back the exercise as the people seemed to have their personal stakes in the peace process. The Central government conceded to the call, albeit on a different contention. A notification was issued on 8th February of 2008 deferring the delimitation exercise in J&K and four NE states including Nagaland on security reasons.

Three Assembly elections later since the deferment notification, and four since passing of the Delimitation Act, 2002, there seems to have no relation, negative or otherwise, between the Act and the peace talks. That any constitutional process such as elections could be held in the state during this period bears out the argument that delimitation couldn’t possibly have been inimical to the peace process. When elections can be held in the state peacefully, viewing delimitation process with suspicion is plain juvenile act. If delimitation cannot be implemented “at this juncture”, then by the same token all elections as provided in the constitution of India must be kept on hold in the state. The peace talk is a different process.  It should not serve as a peg to hang some people’s excuses on. But the funny thing was that the naysayers won thereby raising the state’s status from the much-indulged special to the perfect specimen of the absurd.

On 28 February 2020, the President of India cancelled the notification of 8 February 2008. Following this, the government of India has constituted the Delimitation Commission to redraw Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies in these states and UT. As almost a natural corollary, a dissenting voice is heard this time around, too. This is not to be taken lightly because the voice of a party that holds power in the state Assembly is a strong voice. Between this voice and Central government’s order balance justice and equality on a knife edge. The naysayers are determined to keep administration of justice on hold even as they twist the knife in the wound of the politically disadvantaged.

There is, however, hope of clearing the way for the delimitation exercise in the state. The coalition partner of the PDA government is the party ruling at the Centre. This party wouldn’t go against its parent party in doing the right thing unless, of course, it has gone all nutty. And this coalition partner is not at all insane.

All parties need to understand that those reasons hitherto valid have now reached their expiration date. Delimitation Act, 2002 must be implemented in the state because there are no longer any valid reason why it should not be implemented. 

In the case of Nagaland, the Act simply seeks to redraw Assembly constituencies so as to have equitable population representation to the State Assembly. From the beginning of its statehood, Nagaland saw injustice in the distribution of Assembly constituencies among the districts that was skewed to benefit certain districts. The formation of Nagaland as a state coincided with the passing of the second Delimitation Act 1962, implemented in 1963. It was the third Delimitation Commission Act, 1972 (implemented in 1973) that undid distributive justice before it had even begun. Forty seven years on, that one deed of greed and injustice has left a scraggly trail of imbalanced physical development, disproportionate employment, unequal economic conditions, unequal political voice, and a long curve of lopsided progress. All these inequalities put a strain on social harmony and threaten to tear the state apart on tribal lines. The Delimitation Act, 2002 would provide the much needed opportunity to clean up the act and right the wrong.

Population is dynamic. It grows and its growth can throw a smooth process (governance) out of kilter unless structural adjustments are made to adjust with its growth. Delimitation is that process of adjustment. It doesn’t do anybody any injustice. Rather it is an instrument of correctness and justice. Anybody possessing a modicum of rationality or moral principle will say yes to delimitation. Should any naysayer be destitute of sense or principle, there are the hard legal and constitutional aspects that are unavoidable. 

Development as understood by everybody in the state, including the statesmen, correlates to the amount of money allocated. It is something that is “brought in”. To this end, the simple maths plain-speaks for itself. Those districts that have disproportionately more number of constituencies stand to gain from development funds, such as LADP fund; they wield collective, hence powerful, political power for use to the undue advantage of the districts. All these at the cost of the other less fortunate districts that have less number of constituencies in proportion to their population.  

No amount of reasons can justify indefinite deferment of the delimitation exercise. Of all dissatisfactions, the one caused due to injustice is the most strongly felt. When injustice goes to the extent of even sabotaging legal redressal, which is the hallmark of a third world justice system, those dissatisfactions may find expression in the most ugly ways. 

Any party or group that opposes the delimitation exercise is also opposed to the foundations of equality, justice and fraternity. Such party would be antithesis to the very idea of democracy and its ideals.

Better sense needs to prevail “at this juncture”. Better let democracy take its own due course. All for the good of the state and its people.

Ekyimo Shitirie, 

Bayavu Hill, Kohima 

(esti.nbe@gmail.com)

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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