New Delhi: Political parties, former councilors and residents’ welfare associations said on Tuesday that the boundary commission had introduced large-scale variations in terms of population and area division in 250 wards – a step that , according to them, will lead to confusion among the general public and disparate distribution of development resources.
The draft boundary report released into the public domain by the three-member commission on Tuesday showed that the population under different wards ranged from 35,000 in Chandni Chowk to 90,000 in Mayur Vihar phase 1.
Usually, the authorities rationalize the population and the counting of voters in the electoral districts while carrying out the delimitation. According to the 2011 census, the population of Delhi was 16,418,663, which formed the basis for the division of wards into assembly constituencies. This meant that each neighborhood had to have an average population of 65,674.
Officials associated with the exercise argued that according to the terms of reference set at the Union Home Office, the wards were to be changed within the boundaries of the assembly constituency. “As each assembly constituency must be divided into at least three wards, the principle of average population cannot be maintained everywhere, so a deviation of plus or minus 10% from the average population may be acceptable to the government central, if the geographical characteristics, the contiguity of domains … therefore justified”, indicated the terms of reference.
While most wards have a population between 60,000 and 70,000, the total number ranges between the extremes of 35,509 in Chandni Chowk and 93,381 in Mayur Vihar phase-1. The project shows that there are at least 24 neighborhoods where the population exceeds 80,000. Some of the most populated wards (over 85,000 per ward) include Mayur Vihar phase I (93,381), Trilokpuri (91,991), Sangam Vihar A (89,899), Wazirpur (87,397), Harsh Vihar (87,009) , Aman Vihar (86,546), Nihal Vihar (85,571), Kalyanpuri (86,599) and Saboli (86,608).
Similarly, the least populated districts are Chandni Chowk (35,509), Laxmi Nagar (35,684), IP Extension (44,756), Gokalpuri (44,658), Sangam Park (44,674), East Patel Nagar (44,420) , Kalkaji (44,112), Sri Ram Colony (42,819) and Siddharth Nagar (42,629).
Feedback and objections
Delhi Aam Aadmi Party leader Gopal Rai said the neighborhoods had been redesigned without any application of “logic”. “Several wards were moved to different precincts at random, and officers seemed to have no idea. Some wards have a population of 45,000 while others have a population of 75,000. Funds allocated to each ward will stay the same. How does it make sense to develop an area of 75,000 people with the same fund?” Raï says.
He added that the AAP is reviewing the report and the party will provide the response to the boundary committee based on the realities on the ground. “We are optimistic that this will help get rid of this baseless delineation made by these people,” he added.
Prem Chauhan, a former AAP councilor and leader of the opposition in the former South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), said there were ‘multiple flaws’ in the project and it would attract many objections . “We hope that these objections will be taken into account and not simply ignored. The population variation is too great to ignore. In my case, for example, we belong to the assembly of Ambedkar Nagar where one ward has 50,000 people while the next ward has 80,000 people. The panel should have divided the population evenly. This report was prepared while sitting in a room and ignoring the realities on the ground,” he added.
Delhi Congress Deputy Speaker and former adviser to Andrews Ganj Abhishek Dutt said his constituency had changed completely during the last delimitation and had suffered the same fate again. “The delimitation was a tactic to delay the elections. It was just a formality. People are suffering during this bureaucratic regime and elections should be held early. My whole neighborhood has been changed, but I win every time with a bigger margin,” he added.
Manoj Tyagi, a former AAP adviser and opposition leader at the East Corporation, said the report was “unbalanced and biased”. “It was done at the request of the BJP. Neighborhoods have been removed, the distribution of the population has been distorted without any criteria. We will file objections and, if necessary, take this report to court,” he added.
Atul Goyal, who heads the citizens’ group URJA, said the whole process is based on the 2011 census. “The numbers don’t represent the reality on the ground. This is a decade old census and makes the whole exercise vague. The number of people in parishes and assemblies has changed dramatically. Second, the number of neighborhoods is reduced in the face of population growth that defies all logic. But, we want the elections to take place as soon as possible,” he added.
The boundary commission set October 3 as the deadline for the general public to submit their suggestions and objections to the report. The panel will meet twice a week to consider public comments and submit a final report to the Home Office on November 8.
The publication of the report marks a critical step towards holding municipal corporation elections which were abruptly suspended in March after the Center announced plans to merge Delhi’s three municipal bodies. The Center has introduced a bill to amend the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, according to which the total number of municipal wards under the unified body “shall not exceed 250”. Since the existing wards in Delhi were 272, this necessitated a demarcation exercise before new elections could be held.
The Unified Municipal Corporation came into existence by consolidating three civic bodies – the North, South and East MCD – on 22 May 2022 after Parliament passed the Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Act 2022.
The MHA appointed a three-member boundaries committee on July 8, 2022, which is expected to deliver its report in four.
According to officials familiar with the matter, elections can be held after a 30-day period under the model code of conduct that will be enforced by the state election commission after notification of the ballots.