IFP Editorial: Before any delimitation exercise there is a need to determine actual population figures through a Population Commission.
Updated 30 May 2022, 7:28 pm
We have been writing and writing about instituting a Population Commission in the state. It is not only about analysing abnormal growth of population in some hill districts or detecting illegal migrants, but also of accurate population data which are linked with development indicators or strategies and benefit schemes. And there is always room for misconceptions and wrong interpretations which often causes unwanted tension among the various communities inhabiting the state.
The issue of constituting a State Population Commission had been put on the backburner for quite some time. Taking exception to the proposed delimitation exercise in 2020, several civil society organisations have come up with a demand for setting up a State Population Commission to resolve the issue of abnormal population growths and for finding accurate Census data. Now, as many as six student bodies of Manipur on Sunday demanded amendment in National Register of Citizens (NRC) and establishment of a Population Commission to detect and deport the illegal immigrant and initiate necessary legal action.
Earlier the CSOs had objected to both 2001 and 2011 Census figures as the basis of any delimitation exercise. SK Mendiratta, a former legal advisor to the Election Commission and a well-known expert on delimitation red-flagged the Government of India’s order setting up a Delimitation Commission for four NE states including Manipur and Jammu & Kashmir calling it unconstitutional and illegal. The state Chief Minister N Biren Singh had objected to a delimitation exercise based on ‘wrong’ Census figures and has called for delimitation on a fresh Census figure without controversy.
The previous Congress regime had also objected to the delimitation exercise on 18 November 2005, after an all-party meeting. And the delimitation exercise except for Jammu and Kashmir was deferred. Why are certain sections objecting to delimitation based on 2001 Census figures? Census operations of 2001 in Manipur were controversial and results were misleading with abnormal growth rates. The then Manipur government decided to order a fresh census after discussions with the team from the Union Home Ministry and the Registrar General of Census Operations. A fresh survey in 19 subdivisions of the hill and valley districts was ordered.
When the enumerators went for re-survey, they were met with resistance from villagers. A group called Re-Census Protest Committee of Senapati district described the fresh survey as unconstitutional and unauthorised. The exercise was labelled as an attempt to deny the tribal people their rights. Some even tried to paint a communal bias to the objection saying that the valley people were concerned with losing some constituencies to the hills and thereby upsetting the power balance. Fact is, Census figures of 2001 of Manipur were not complete. Census of Senapati district was not actually conducted but was based on estimated figures. The final figure of Census 2001 of Manipur was estimated at 22,93,896. This figure was not based on actual head count but on projected data.
Another fact is that, there is mismatch between Census 2001 data and Electoral Roll 2020 prepared by the State Election Department. 2001 Census data exceeds the voter list enrolled in 2020 in many of the age groups, according to experts. Nearly 63,765 individuals are not reflected in the Electoral Roll 2020. It indicates that these persons are fake.
Electoral Roll is a very sensitive issue. Only a few individual cases are there where a voter is excluded from the list. A special drive has been made through rectification of Electoral Roll in Manipur. Recently, about 75,000 bogus voters have been removed from this district. When two important data Census and Electoral Roll do not match, it is certain that either of the two have errors and are not based on actual position. This also automatically puts a doubt on the 2011 Census figures. It cannot form the basis for the delimitation exercise. So, before any delimitation exercise there is a need to determine actual population figures through a Population Commission. The constitution of a State Population Commission was already agreed upon by the state government in a MOU signed with the JCILPS. So, let us get on with it to clear the murky waters.