Bitter truth of seeking for equal representation of ST in Manipur

Reimeingam Marchang
Based on 2001 Population Census data the delimitation exercise is to be carried out in Manipur along with other states. In Manipur, according to census of India there were 2293896 people including the estimated figure of 127108 for the three subdivisions of Mao-Maram, Paomata and Purul of Senapati district. The geographical area of Manipur is 22327 sq. km. with a population density of 103 persons per sq km. Hill area constituted 90% of the state’s geographical area in which about 38.5% of the state’s people live in it. In 2001, the number and composition of administrative sub-districts were much greater in the hill area (24 numbers or 63%) than valley area (14 numbers or 37%) that is primarily due to a significantly larger hill geographical area than the valley area and also due to considerably lower population density in the hill (44 persons per sq km) than valley area (631).
Ironically, currently only 33% (20 Assembly Constituencies or ACs) of the total 60 ACs is apportioned to the hill areas having population share of about 38.5% in the total state population (2001) and the remaining 67% of ACs is apportioned to valley areas with a population share of only 61%. Out of the total 20 ACs of hill areas, 19 ACs are reserved for Scheduled Tribes (ST) and one AC is unreserved (Kangpokpi 50-AC) for people living in the hills covering 90% of geographical area of the state. It portrays a systematic deprivation to the hill people in terms of representation in the state legislative assembly.  
Imphal West district has the lowest population per each AC with 34183 people while Chandel district has the highest population per AC with 59164. Hill area has a considerably larger number of populations (44107) than valley (35294) in each AC but it has a lower number and share of ACs. It suggests that hill people has under-representation for many decades that is more than a political suppression and injustice to the people of hill districts.
The standard deviation of average population per AC is 8374 that mean some ACs has a shortage or excess of this number of people. This signifies that population in each AC in Manipur is not uniformly distributed. Similarly, the standard deviation of an average area per AC is 692 sq km that implies some AC have a much bigger geographical consideration, for example all ACs of hill areas, while some has a considerably smaller AC area that is evident in all the ACs of valley districts. Hence, promptly, it is imperative to conduct delimitation exercise for equal population representation from the hill and valley districts to the state’s assembly.
The measures for apportionment of Assembly Seats are as follows: freeze the number of ACs, seats are to be apportioned in order to have equal population representation from every region, alter (if need arise) the geographical boundaries of the constituencies but equate population across the constituencies, boundary shall not be redefined unless the population has changed by greater than 10%, and constituency boundary may be redefined but restrict to administrative boundaries. Various apportionments of Legislature Seats (ACs) methods such as Quota, Jefferson, Adams, Webster and Huntington-Hill are used to estimate and show the options of apportionment of ACs using different divisors.
The delimitation committee has a mandate to use the 2001 census data. Currently Manipur has 60 ACs with an average population of 38232 (divisor i.e. ratio between population of Manipur and the number of AC) per constituency as per 2001 census. The delimitation committee has no mandate to change the number of ACs. Thus, AC is fixed at the existing number of 60 then by using the divisor the apportionment of existing legislature seats varies across the methods. With the given 60 ACs the district of Senapati, Ukhrul and Chandel will gain one each AC; whereas Bishnupur, Imphal West and Imphal East would loss one each based on three methods of apportionment namely Quota or Webster or Huntington-Hill. For decades, STs have been under-represented by three legislatures (ACs) in the hill districts of Manipur. Thus, a bitter truth for equal representation of legislatures is simply to increase ACs by three in the hills. As such the total reserved ACs for ST is possibly raised to 22 from 19 in the hills. On contrary, valley has three over-representation of legislature. The gain of 3 ACs in the hills by dropping 3 ACs in the valley districts may be acceptable for the hills but may be furious for the valley people. The gain of 3 ACs in the hills is still lower than its population (38.5%) when compared to the reserved ACs for ST at close to 37% of the total 60 ACs of Manipur. The remaining 63% ACs will be apportioned in the valley districts that constituted only 10% of the state’s geographical areas. 
Additionally, as per 2001 census data, there was a significant share of ST population in the valley. As much as 4% (56247) of the valley’s total population (1411766) were ST. It implies that STs of valley have the right to have at the most two ACs out of 40 ACs in the valley. STs were deprived for decades to represent themselves in the valley in the legislative assembly of Manipur. ST people from the valley districts have legitimate right to exclusively demand for ST reserved ACs by considering the following points.
ST population living in the valley districts would not be allocated in the hill areas while apportionment of ACs. They are not enrolled in the electoral list in the ACs of the hills. Few might have enrolled in more than two ACs even if it is illegal and against the law. Usually, they are enrolled in the electoral roll based on their valley address in the valley ACs and cast their vote in their respective valley ACs. So is the case for other communities in the hill areas. Therefore, at least the ST concentrated areas can be merged together and propose for a reserved AC for ST in the valley.
Moreover, Kangpokpi (50-AC) that is geographically located in the hill area is unreserved AC by clubbing together the nearby settlement areas of non-ST. Then, it is possible to seek AC(s) reserved for ST by combining the ST people concentrated areas in the valley districts by considering the geographical proximity (or irrespective of geographical connection) along with some non-ST population similar to Kangpokpi AC. DC may define AC boundary by restricting to administrative boundaries. However, exemplary from Saitu AC (51-ST) that it is possible to form AC without contiguous geographical area.
In terms of administrative units, valley has only 14 sub districts due to high density and small geographical area but has 40 ACs, against 24 of it in the hills owing to sparse settlement in vast geographical area with only 20 ACs. That means the administrative boundary of valley is further sub-divided into ACs by permutation and combination of administrative units. It suggested that AC(s) for ST in the valley is feasible to be created. The writer can be reached at [email protected]