“We should not have Liliputian State”
DIMAPUR, FEBRUARY 14: Veteran Naga leader and the last surviving signatory to 1960 Statehood Agreement on Monday ridiculed Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio for his statement on additional seats for the State Assembly.
“It is ridiculous to claim such a thing at this juncture. Moreover, it is ridiculous to claim these as achievements. Additional 20 Assembly seats will be only adding to the State burden”, Jamir told Nagaland Page in an interview.
He said the issues pertaining to the number of seats for the Nagaland Legislative Assembly had figured at talks even in the 1950s and 1960s. “We referred to the Article 170 of the Indian Constitution. It is stated maximum size of a State Legislature can be 500 and minimum 60…So we decided to have 60. Mizoram even has 40. Our issue in Nagaland is not the size of the Assembly. We have to understand this.”
He recalled things in details.
In 1960, the Negotiating Body of the NPC met the Prime Minister in 1960 for creation of a separate State known as Nagaland within Indian Union and it was agreed. At this point of time, the question of delimitation of Assembly Constituencies arose. The State being small in population and area, it was found difficult to work out the number of Constituencies on the basis of population. Hence, Article 170 of the Constitution was examined: It reads: Composition of the Legislative Assemblies ~ Subject to the provisions of Article 333 the Legislative Assembly of each State shall consist of not more than five hundred and not less than sixty, members chosen by direct election from territorial constituencies in the State.”
“The negotiating Body of the NPC accepted sixty Assembly Constituencies as enshrined in the Constitution. This is how we are having 60 Assembly Constituencies in Nagaland. It was neither on the basis of population nor size of the State”, Jamir stated.
Moreover, Jamir said, “Population alone or is not the best criterion to decide about numbers of Assembly seats. In other constituencies across India there are a large number of populations unlike Nagaland.”
Dr Jamir also said in response to a question that: “Even today constituencies in Nagaland are very small compared to other States of the country.”
He also said rather mockingly that Nagaland legislators do not have much work to do. “The Assembly sessions are held for three days or a week and where there are no issues to discuss. Additional seats will be a burden as this will only put pressure on State exchequer.”
Jamir also said the demands for 20 additional seats by Naga groups were initially made under Nagalim to cater to Nagas of Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh and also for Nagas of Nagaland.
Therefore, he said, “To get additional Assembly seats will not be a political achievement, it will be political and economic burden only. And the Naga intelligentsia and younger generation should realise these aspects very well.”
“That way 60 seats are sufficient for Nagaland and so why should we add other seats which were earmarked for areas outside Nagaland? He questioned.
Moreover having very small numbers of Assembly constituencies will be futile as it will lose “dignity”.
However, to a question he welcomed the proposal to increase the number of seats in Parliament and said, “It is correct we should at least have three. In 1960, we proposed two. It was agreed in principle and it was to be done during the delimitation exercise.”
But he hastened to add that the delimitation exercise for parliamentary seats was never done as the differences persist between north Indian states and in South India.
“Now it is abundantly clear that integration of Naga areas shall not be there. This subject did not figure in the Framework Agreement of August 3. 2015. What then is the political advantage to overload Nagaland by bringing other loads? What is the rationale or raison d’tre in getting jubilant about this? Two more seats for Lok Sabha are fully justified. Let us not fashion our State structures akin to Liliputian”, he said.
The former Chief Minister also said that he had last year criticised the Rio Government for increasing the number of districts.
“Look today Eastern Nagaland has walked away despite having six districts which is a bad omen for the future. What is needed is political sagacity and good governance and I will insist even the Govt.of India should understand this.” Jamir said.