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Delimitation move caught in census war

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 15: Councillors of the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation are not happy with the manner in which the delimitation exercise of their municipal wards are being done by the authorities.

The Naveen Patnaik government has begun the exercise for the urban civic bodies to ensure that there is 50 per cent reservation for women instead of the existing 33 per cent. At present, there are 22 women councillors in the 60-member body.

The councillors, who are apprehensive of their seats being reserved under some category or the other, have a legitimate point. They pointed out that the delimitation exercise is being carried out on the basis of 2001 census and not according to the one done in 2011. If the latest census figures are considered, the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation will have 68 wards, thereby the strength of the corporation will go up from 60 to 68.

They pointed out that the yard stick adopted for 97 urban local bodies, which are going to the polls in September 2013, should not be applied to the three municipal corporations of Cuttack, Bhubaneswar and Berhampur.

In the council meeting on November 22 last, councillors opposed the proposal to delimit the ward boundaries as per the 2001 census and insisted 2011 figures should be taken into account.

The delimitation exercise was needed following a gazette notification by the Odisha government on November 6 last year where it was mentioned that “reservations of seats under the Odisha Municipal Corporation Act, 2003, shall be made by rotation to different wards, after two terms of general election”.

This means that there would be 50 per cent reservation of seats for women and it will be effected in rotation for two consecutive terms. This also implies that if the ensuing 2013 poll is held with a particular reservation arrangement, it will be valid till 2018.

A councillor said on condition of anonymity that if the latest figures were considered there would be eight more wards in addition to the existing 60.

Responding to the controversy, mayor Ananta Narayan Jena said: “The council had decided to use the 2011 census data as the basis of the delimitation, but it is for the state government to take the final call.”

Speaking to The Telegraph, municipal commissioner Sanjib Kumar Mishra said: “Delimitation exercise needs to study the details of women, men, scheduled caste, scheduled tribe and total population in individual enumeration blocks. If the details are not there then designating them as reserved or unreserved is not possible. So we are going to take the 2001 census data for delimitation this time.”