OrissaMatters Bureau

New Delhi:

The all-party Orissa committee has questioned the logic of abolishing 20 assembly constituencies and creating an equal number of new ones during its discussion with the Delimitation Commissioner, Justice Kuldeep Singh, on July 13 here and raised objections over the process and methodology followed for reorganising constituencies for State as well as Union legislatures.

Speaking to OrissaMatters .com, Mr. Nalinikanta Mohanty, prominent member of Congress Legislative wing in Orissa Assembly, said that the Committee had aired its grievances over the �undemocratic procedure� followed for delimitation. �Associate members have not been consulted by the Commission in preparing the working paper,� even as �Serious problems exist in entitlements of Assembly seats of districts and also in distribution of seats for SC/ST in respective districts. Seats with less percentage of SC/ST population have been denoted as reserved while those with high percentage have been proposed to be unreserved�, he noted.

Under Article 81 (1) (a) and (b) the Constitution, the maximum size of Lok Sabha has been fixed on 550 excluding two nominated members. It has been decided to limit this size to 543 until year 2026. Similarly the sizes of State legislatures have also been frozen. The Delimitation Commission�s mandate is to reorganise constituencies on the basis of demographic change, which has, over the years, substantially altered the size of many constituencies. Bhubaneswar, for instance, has about a population of six lakh voters against the average size of 2 lakh. Delimitation can make even such iniquitous distribution.

The representatives from Orissa are not opposed to the idea of delimitation per se. �What we are protesting is the arbitrary method of determining which constituency is to be cut down or abolished,� says Mr. Raghunath Mohanty, BJD MLA. As evidence of this, he cites �large discrepancy� between Census Report of 2001 and the data provided by the Commission as basis for delimitation. �How can the structure of constituencies be altered on the basis of fictitious population figures,� he asks.

Moreover, there are allegations of �politically motivated selective downsizing� of constituencies although the process is being carried out by a Commission and not by any government.

The process of abolition and creation is causing damage to emotional ties of the electorate, feels Mr. Nalinikanta Mohanty. People identify themselves with some particular constituency and its leaders. �Their sense of identity and belongingness are being lost in the process of abolition and creation of constituencies, which is entirely unnecessary and avoidable.�

While the process of delimitation seems both a necessity and an eventual must, many are demanding that it must be done democratically. For example, through conducting public hearings whereby voters can express their choice regarding joining some constituency. The Commission deciding it unilaterally is like taking away a democratic right.

The all-party committee comprising of MPs Giridhar Gamango (Congress), Prasanna Acharya and Bhartruhari Mahtab (BJD), Juel Oram (BJP), and MLAs Nalinikanta Mohanty (Congress) Raghunath Mohanty, Sanatan Bisi and Kalpataru Das (BJD) and Ms. Sanchita Mohanty (BJP) met the Commission to discuss these issues. Hearing their objections, the Commission has urged them to meet again with suggestions on September 19.


OM Bureau

We have tried to document one of the worst droughts that hit Bolangir in the year 2000 and its aftermath, says Ms Rupashree Nanda. Director of HARVEST OF HUNGER, the documentary that has been held to be the Best Investigative Film in the non-fiction category bagging for her the Rajat Kamal in the 52nd National Film Awards, this year.

Producer Actionaid India will also be awarded with Rajat Kamal over and above the cash prize it carries. Editor of the film, Mr. Prashant Nayak is also adjudged the Best Editor.

Atal Behari Vajpayee, when Prime Minister, had used a pampered journal to reject reports of starvation deaths in that side of the State. In these pages, we had shown how he was wrong. Rupashree has now irrefutably exposed the wrong done to our people.

It is sad to see the game of one upmanship among politicians and bureaucrats on display at the expense of one of the most oppressed communities, that battle hunger, succumb to starvation and sell off children to survive, she says.

The film has exposed the ruin of Orissas skilled workers who migrate to neighboring States providing profuse profit to agents of brick kilns where to they mostly go. The labor market in Bolangir is worth Rs 40-50 crore and comprises about 2 lakhs people; one third of which belong to the group of under-aged children, the documentary has established.

Ignored by administration and kept bereft of benefits promised in various projects, they go to the labor contractors seeking loans under compulsion of immediate living and then, to repay these loans, migrate as bonded laborers to the brick kilns mostly in neighboring Andhra Pradesh.

Says Rupashree, They are subjected to one of the worst forms of exploitation, working almost 18 hours a day in the brick kilns and subsisting on a diet of broken rice called Kanki, basically a chicken feed, for a period of 8 months. When monsoon comes, they return empty handed hoping good luck shall come and they will never to have to migrate again. But, despite a good monsoon, spending all the crops they yield in repaying the loans they owe to local agents and money lenders, they get on their ways to the kilns again.

Exposing this was not without any difficulty. The owners and managers of the brick kilns were vehemently against documentation. Rupashree notes, the migrant women even in their wretched despair, were extending her full cooperation and protection. Some of them saw me as a sister, some as a friend. They gave me food and shelter when necessary. Though vulnerable themselves, they protected me in the brick kilns whenever the Seths or Munshis threatened or abused. They trusted me and shared their lives with me. If I could dedicate this film to anyone, it would to those dignified people. Our efforts would be truly rewarded if the film brings about a change in the lives of these people.

A resident of Bapuji Nagar, she got initial interest in people of Bolangir during her visits to her mother who was then the Principal of Government Womens College there. She watched and observed their condition closely and deeply. Then came the Actionaid India project.
She has done her Masters in English from the Utkal University and specialization in Mass Communication from Jamia Millia Islamia. Her next venture is slated to be on Right to Information.