Anoop Nautiyal expressed apprehension that this increase in the number of voters may also be related to the local municipal elections that are to be held in the next nine months. There are eight Municipal Corporations in Uttarakhand namely Dehradun, Haridwar, Roorkee, Rishikesh, Kotdwar, Haldwani, Kashipur and Rudrapur. He said that the biggest increase in the number of voters has been registered in these eight cities and their respective districts. There was a need to pay attention to the fact that in order to strengthen the vote bank, people were being brought from outside and made to settle here. Additionally, apart from political reasons, there was also a possibility that all of this movement into Uttarakhand being executed in a planned manner for social, religious or security reasons. In contrast, the constituencies in the hills have shown least increase in the number of voters in past 10 years. For example, Ranikhet, Chaubatakhal, Pauri, Dwarahat, Lansdowne, Jageshwar, Yamkeshwar, Didihat and Lohaghat saw the lowest voter increase of 8 percent to 16 percent during these 10 years.
ECI orders high level investigation into rapid demographic changes in U’khand
Concerns over 30 percent increase in voters in past 10 years in U’khand
By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 28 Jan: In past few months, concerns have been expressed by many including the Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami himself, over the rapidly changing demographic situation in Uttarakhand. Some quarters and some political parties including the Congress have been dismissing such reports in the past. However, the latest updating of the Electoral rolls in Uttarakhand has confirmed that such concerns were not far-fetched at all. The latest data shows that in Uttarakhand, the number of voters has increased at a rate faster than in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur and Goa.
The situation is in fact so worrisome that Election Commission of India has also expressed concern over the development, and has directed the state to conduct a three level inquiry into such rapid demographic changes.
The Election Commission has ordered a detailed investigation in the state, based on the report of a leading think-tank SDC Foundation. It may be recalled that social activist Anoop Nautiyal is the founder of SDC Foundation.
Taking cognisance of the SDC report, Uttarakhand Raksha Morcha leader and former IFS officer Dr VK Bahuguna, has been corresponding with the Election Commission in this regard and has been demanding investigation into the development. In fact, this SDC Report had been released during the last Assembly elections in the state held last year. The SDC Report had also raised major questions with regards to the carrying capacity of the cities, besides the rapidly changing demography of Uttarakhand.
However, the latest development in the issue that has been raised by many during past few months is that the reasons behind the rapid increase in the number of voters in Uttarakhand in the last 10 years will now be investigated at the state level. On the orders of the Election Commission of India, the State Election Commission has written a letter to all the District Magistrates and District Election Officers on 9 January, 2023, ordering a quick investigation by constituting committees at the district level, assembly constituency level and polling station level in every district.
During the Uttarakhand assembly elections in the year 2022, the Dehradun-based think tank SDC Foundation released a detailed report based on the Election Commission’s data regarding the unprecedented increase in the number of voters in the state over the last decade. As per the comparison made by the SDC Foundation in respect of the increase in voter turnout in Uttarakhand to the voter turnout in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Manipur and Goa which were all undergoing elections at the same time, sharpest increase has been seen in the numbers of voters in Uttarakhand. The SDC Foundation had released a report named the ‘Demographic Changes, District Update and Consistency Numbers’ shedding light on the developments. According to the report, between 2012 and 2022, there was a 30 percent increase in the number of voters in Uttarakhand, while there was an increase of 21 percent in Punjab, 19 percent in Uttar Pradesh, 14 percent in Manipur and 13 percent in Goa.
On the basis of this report, Dr VK Bahuguna, former IFS officer and president of Uttarakhand Raksha Morcha, wrote letters to the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand and also to the Chief Election Commissioner, demanding an inquiry into the matter. He had said that this abnormal increase in the number of voters posed a threat to the cultural integrity of Uttarakhand. Dr Bahuguna also said that the previously determined carrying capacity of Uttarakhand had been long exhausted. SDC Foundation’s report, led by Anoop Nautiyal, is a warning to all policy makers and common people of the state.
This campaign by Dr Bahuguna finally bore some result when after about 10 months, the Election Commission of India, taking cognisance of this matter, has ordered the State Election Commission to investigate the matter in the entire state. On this basis, the State Election Commission has sent orders to all District Magistrates and District Election Officers to form committees in the district, assembly constituency and polling station.
Based on the SDC Foundation’s report on the increase in the number of voters, a committee will be formed at the district level and will consist of 4 members, including the Deputy District Election Officer. The assembly constituency level committee will have 4 members including the Electoral Registration Officer and the booth level committee will have 5 members including the Patwari nominated by the Deputy District Magistrate. The State Election Commission has asked to complete the investigation and submit its report by 28 February this year.
The number of voters in Uttarakhand has been increasing unexpectedly. During the last 10 years, there has been an increase in the number of voters in all of the state’s seats, but it is the increase in the seats of Uttarakhand’s plain districts that is most worrying. This sharp increase in voter numbers in the plains is a clear indication that there has been a steady migration of people from other states into Uttarakhand. This number is probably much higher than the number of migrants of our own state moving from the hilly areas to the urban centres.
It clearly appears that a large number of people from other states are coming and settling in Uttarakhand’s plain regions. This poses a pressing question to the demography of Uttarakhand and Uttarakhandiyat according to several organisations from the state. The SDC and other such organisations have called for greater attention to be paid to this issue. It should be a matter of investigation, if those settling in Uttarakhand from other states are actually settling here as part of a greater plan or strategy.
One would also recall that some days ago, some people had been arrested in Dehradun for making fake Aadhaar Cards and therefore making it easier to get their voters’ ID here. In light of this, it becomes very important to investigate the reason behind it, evaluate it and pay heed to its consequences.
Speaking to Garhwal Post, Anoop Nautiyal, founder of SDC Foundation expressed satisfaction over the Election Commission’s ordering of a probe into the unusually larger increase of voters in Uttarakhand. He reminded that among the 70 seats in the state, the maximum number of voters had increased in Dharampur assembly constituency of Dehradun district. In the last 10 years, there had been an increase of 72 percent in the number of voters in this particular assembly constituency. Apart from Dharampur, Rudrapur, Doiwala, Sahaspur, Kaladhungi, Kashipur, Raipur, Kichha, BHEL, Ranipur and Rishikesh are other constituencies that have seen the highest increase in the number of voters, ranging from 41 to 72 percent. Nautiyal also emphasised that due to such a large number of people possibly coming from outside state borders and settling in Uttarakhand, there was a lot of extra pressure being exerted on the carrying capacity of cities within the state. Most of the cities in the state were already bearing loads far beyond their carrying capacity. Due to this, the lack of civic facilities and various types of urban problems continue to increase.