In the context of India’s federal democracy, the political and economic significance of a state is closely tied to its relative population size. The robust linguistic identities and regional renaissances in the southern states have propelled them to greater heights in various development spheres compared to their northern counterparts. Notably, population control in the southern states has been achieved through social development and economic growth, in stark contrast to the northern states.
- GS2- Functions and Responsibilities of the Union and the States, Issues and Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure
- GS3- Mobilisation of Resources
What are the challenges faced in India in the context of balancing political representation with population geography? Suggest a way forward in tackling these challenges. (10 marks, 150 words)
- Population geography changes have a lasting impact on the political and economic landscape in the federal political system.
- Article 81 of the Indian Constitution mandates that Lok Sabha constituencies should be equal in size based on population.
- The freezing of the number of constituencies for each state, determined by the 1971 Census, was extended through constitutional amendments.
- If the current principle of equalizing constituency size by population is enforced, the southern states would lose seats, while the northern states would gain, leading to a shift in political representation.
Balancing population and political representation:
- The issue of balancing political representation for sub-central units with lower populations is a common challenge in federations. Canada, for example, has consistently increased representation for less populous provinces.
- The attempt to equalize constituencies based on population is rooted in the principle of “One Person, One Vote.” However, the winner-takes-all nature of the ‘First-Past-the-Post’ election system may lead to winners being elected with a fraction of total votes.
- In the Indian context, where family planning and population control are policy priorities, states that have successfully implemented these policies should not face reduced political representation.
- Population control in the southern states is a result of both family planning programs and broader social changes engineered by societal leaders.
- Penalizing these states through reduced representation could discourage other regions from taking population control seriously.
Balancing population and fiscal transfers:
- Population also plays a role in fiscal transfers, where Finance Commissions recommend the share of each state in the assigned tax revenue of the Union government.
- The formula often considers population and per capita income, with larger weights assigned to the latter.
- The trend of using current population in the distribution formula and delimitation can be seen as retribution for the population control efforts of the southern states and an acknowledgment of the higher population growth rate in the northern states.
In summary, freezing the distribution of seats among states as they were in 1971 until population stabilizes in all states is proposed as a solution. This addresses concerns about political representation and fiscal transfers while recognizing the efforts of states in population control.