Congress MP Jairam Ramesh sought an assurance from the government in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday that the five southern States will not be punished by reducing their representation in Parliament just because they managed to control their population.
India will overtake China in eight years to be the most populous country even though barring six States, others have reached replacement levels of fertility. The six States that have total fertility rates in excess of the replacement level of 2.1 are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, he pointed out.
“Even the much-heralded model State of Gujarat would have reached this landmark 20 years after undivided Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, 25 years after Tamil Nadu and 30 years after Kerala,” Mr. Ramesh said.
By 2050, population in the five southern States will decline from the present level of about 15% to around 12% by the middle of the century while the share of just four States — Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan — will increase from something like 40% now to about 44%.
As per the current seat distribution these four northern States sent 204 members to the Lok Sabha, while the five southern States put together only send 128 members. With decline in their population the southern States’ representation can go further down leaving them with little agency to drive the national agenda.
The next seat change will happen after the 2031 census. Till that time, the numbers will be kept constant, irrespective of the absolute population. The seat distribution among the States now is still based on the 1971 census when India’s population was 54 crore and therefore we have 543 seats. The formula of deciding this is one seat per 10 lakh voters.
“It would be highly unfair, Sir, if States, particularly those in south India that have pioneered family planning, end up losing seats in Parliament. They need to be reassured now,” Mr. Ramesh said.