J&K delimitation panel hints at reserving ST, SC seats
“Draft report will be in public domain for a consensus. Only after the fresh comments, the final draft will be prepared”
Jammu: The Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation Commission on Friday said it would be granting reservation to the Schedule Tribe (ST) and Schedule Caste (SC) communities while delimiting seven additional seats for the 83-member Assembly of the Union Territory (UT).
Commission also said it will base its final report on the 2011 Census and also take into account the topography, difficult terrain, means of communication and convenience available to the people.
“Delimitation is not a mathematical exercise. It must reflect the political aspirations of society bound in a particular geography. Though the population forms the base for delimitation, the commission shall take into account constituencies’ practicality, geographical compatibility, topography, physical features, means of communication and convenience available,” Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra said, after the three-member panel completed its four-day consultation tour of J&K.
The earlier delimitation panels did not acknowledge the difficult terrains and people’s difficulties, he pointed out.
Chandra clarified that 24 seats reserved for Pakistan-administered-Jammu and Kashmir would not be delimited in this process.
“The commission will also specify the number of seats to be reserved for the SC and the ST in the Legislative Assembly of the UT. It will be for the first time that seats will be reserved for the ST in J&K,” he noted.
J&K has already seven seats reserved for SC people, mainly in the Kathua-Samba belt in the Jammu region. It will be for the first time that STs, including Bakerwals and Gujjars, will get reservation in this delimitation exercise. The maximum population of Gujjars and Bakwerwals are from the Pir Panjal Valley, comprising Poonch and Rajouri districts in the Jammu region.
On the process of arriving at a final draft, Chandra said the commission had taken into account the representations made by 290 groups, comprising 800 people.
“A draft report will be prepared, wherein the suggestions of the associate members will also be taken into account. Thereafter, it will be in the public domain for a consensus. Only after the fresh comments, the final draft will be prepared. Opportunity will be given to people at large to take into account all the views,” he stated.
Referring to the Peoples Democratic Party’s accusations that the panel’s decisions were pre-planned, he said, “If it was so, we would not have held such broad-based consultations. I would suggest that such apprehensions should be shunned now. The idea of coming to J&K and visiting Srinagar, Pahalgam, Kishtwar and Jammu was to get peoples perspectives. People from far-off areas were able to share their difficulties. All said they were happy with the process.”
The delimitation of 1995 was based on the 1981 Census and took into account 14 districts only.
“J&K has 20 districts now. There are overlapping of districts as well as tehsils. In 12 districts, constituency boundaries are extended beyond the districts’ limits,” he added.
Commission chairperson Justice (retd.) Ranjana Prakash Desai said it was overwhelmed by the participation of various stakeholders in large numbers. “There was active participation of registered political parties, civil society groups and NGOs. People provided qualitative inputs during our tour,” she added.
Most of J&K’s political parties, during the meetings with the panel, have stressed on immediate restoration of statehood after the new constituencies are delineated by the panel.