Priyesh Bheda looks at Article 81 (2) of the Constitution of India and makes a moot point of its application in the change demographics of voters in India:
- Article 81 (2) of the Constitution of India provides for the allocation of seats in the Lok Sabha on the basis of population. It is provided that the ratio between the number of seats in each state and the population of that state remains the same for all the states, as far as practicable. Thus, from Kashmir to Kanya Kumari, the value of the vote of each citizen remains the same, and each Member of Parliament represents approximately the same number of people.
- Further, the demarcation of territorial constituencies would be revised after each census vide Article 82 so that the ration remains the same. The wise founding fathers believed in the salutary principle of the equal vote for the citizens of India; and this principle is followed in all the democracies over the world. However, this democratic principle was buried by dictatorship during the Internal Emergency of 1975-77.
- The extra-constitutional influence of a member of the political dynasty was widespread during the Emergency and this dynast was zealous about population control. It is an accepted fact that in the proportion of the resources, India did have excess population during the 1970s, hence family planning was required. However, just as too much of any good thing gives bad results, so also too much emphasis on the small family will give absurd results. After some time, the policies need to be changed, but there is an inertia in changing obsolete policies and repealing obsolete laws. One such sector is that of population control.
- During the Emergency, an assault was mounted on the Constitution by the notorious Constitution [forty-second Amendment] Act, 1976. This act, inter alia, amended Article 82 by adding the following proviso, which is now obsolete and needs to be removed. “Provided also that until the relevant figures for the first census taken after the year 2000 have been published, it shall not be necessary to readjust the allocation of seats in the House of the People to the States and the division of each State into territorial constituencies under this article.”
- The effect of this proviso was that the re-adjustment of constituencies was put to freeze for twenty-five years. It was believed that the Southern States have a better performance w.r.t. population control hence they should not suffer disincentive by getting lower representation in the Lok Sabha. In fact, the entire premise of this proviso was wrong, it was not based on any facts or figures or survey or study, but created an artificial divide between Northern and Southern States, thereby devaluing the vote of the citizens who happened to stay in the North.
- Later, most of the pernicious effects of this amendment were rectified vide Constitution [forty-third Amendment] Act, 1977; Constitution [forty-fourth Amendment] Act, 1978. However, this pernicious effect devaluing the vote of a particular class of citizens was not removed, since the propaganda about population control had impressed a section of politicians across all the parties. The propaganda was so impressive that even when the chance came to rectify the wrong after the year 2000, the Constitution of India was specifically amended in 2002 not to have delimitation of constituencies till the first census after 2026. Thereby a golden opportunity to correct the imbalance was lost. But now the year 2026 is not very far, and we could take steps to correct the imbalances.
- Merely for the sake of argument, if it is accepted that there was a need for such proviso in the 1970s, it is certain that the situation has now changed and we need to alter our laws accordingly. The Decadal Growth of the population which was 24.80 % in the 1970s, has fallen progressively to 17.64 % in the 2000s. At present, most families have one or two children, and the growth rate if falling progressively, apart from a few fringe communities. On the contrary, if the growth rate plummets further, we will reach a situation of declining populations. Already in India, several urbanized communities like Parsi, Jain, etc. are facing a decline in population and this will be replicated across other communities as urbanization increases.
- Apart from the above points, there are twenty countries in the world facing a decline in population. These include the urbanized nations like Italy, Cuba, North Macedonia, Portugal, Georgia, Poland, Hungary, Estonia, Romania, Greece, Albania, Japan, Moldovia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, and Bulgaria. Moreover, huge countries like the USA and Russia are able to maintain the population only by immigration since the local people just don’t prefer to have children.
- The thought process has also changed from the 1970’s period: now the population is not considered a burden, but an asset, which can be utilized for national development. We need not encourage large families, but there is certainly no need to give artificial encouragement to population control.
- There is yet another casualty of this skewed policy of freeze on the increase of seats in parliament: the golden democratic principle of equal value of the vote of each citizen. This skewed policy has led to a situation where the residents of North India are considered to be inferior since they have lesser representation in parliament. For example, In Kerala, 16.70 Lakh people have one Member to represent them in the Lok Sabha, but in Uttar Pradesh, 24.97 Lakh citizens have one Member to represent them. These figures are based on Census 2011, and get further skewed when we consider the latest figures since the population of the U.P. has increased by a couple of crores but Kerala does not have similar growth.
- Comparing two states of similar size, the results appear even more skewed: Gujarat with a population of 7 crores in 2019 has 26 representatives, while Andhra Pradesh, with a population of 5.3 crores sends 25 representatives; thus, 5.5 crore residents of Andhra Pradesh would have 26 Members and remaining 1.5 crore people of Gujarat would have zero representation.
- Both states of Tamil Nadu and Bihar send 39 members each, but 10.49 crore Biharis have representation equal to 7.2 crore Tamilians, thereby granting approximately 1.5 votes to each voter of Tamil Nadu. These are figures of the 2011 census and now the ratio has been skewed further.
- As per the latest figures, Assam with a population of 3.5 crores sends only 14 members, while Telangana with a similar population has 17 members, and Kerala with also approximately the same population sends 20 members to the Lok Sabha. Thus, the value of a vote from Kerala is worth more than 1.5 times that of a voter from Assam. This skewed ratio goes against the democratic principle of “one man, one vote.” Although citizens from all these states have one vote each, the value of the voter from Kerala is 1.5 times that of the voter from other states, thereby in effect, giving more vote per voter of Kerala.
- Even if one assumes that the birth rate may be higher in a few states, we need to consider that freedom of movement is assured by Article 19 of the Constitution of India; thus, the natural migration for better opportunities will assure that the population is spread out evenly in due course of time. It is clear that the high-density states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, etc. are out-migrating states, and in due course of nature the imbalance will be corrected, the artificial prop of skewed representation is not required to set the things right. Moreover, this policy of devaluing votes of voters from a particular area is incompatible with Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
- The democratic system cannot survive in such a lop-sided Parliament, hence we need to return to the democratic principle of readjustment of seats as provided by the original Constitution, before it was distorted by the undemocratic 42nd Amendment, which was passed during the Internal Emergency, when the entire Opposition was behind bars. Now, that this draconian provision is due for expiry in 2026, we need to ensure that it is repealed at the earliest and justice to the Indian voter be given after the 2021 census so that we can ensure that approximately 15 lakh Indians have one representative in the Parliament, irrespective of their place of domicile.
About the Author:
(Priyesh Bheda was born on 22 December 1970, brought up in Mumbai, and has pursued B. Sc., M. A. [Public Administration], LL. B. He has studied at the prestigious Khalsa College of Matunga, Mumbai. The former first worked in the family business on the Bombay Stock Exchange and later started a construction Business. Unfortunately, he lost his right leg in a railway accident and then again continued studies, did M. A. and joined Reserve Bank as Manager and subsequently joined the Civil Services in 2004 and moved to I R S in 2007. Also, he is a progressive farmer, growing Lemon Grass, and other aromatic oils using organic practices. He is currently working as Joint Commissioner of Customs & G S T.)