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‘Gerrymandering’ to keep Dalits away

The election in the former French colony is not only about candidates, their grandiose rituals and the freebies on offer. Underlying all the politicking is a numbers game fixed in favour of the dominant castes.

The policies of successive governments have altered the caste dynamics in this coastal town in favour of certain communities.

While Scheduled Caste migrants — who moved into Puducherry after 1964 — have been denied reservation and the status of being a native, thereby stemming their in-bound migration, members of other communities can benefit from State schemes and reservation after staying here for five years.

This has led to a virtual stagnation in the SC populationwhile groups such as Vanniyars continues to swell in numbers.

Systematic effort

Political observers see a strategic and systematic effort — using government schemes and employment programmes — to encourage Vanniyars to migrate here so that they become an influential vote bank. This increase is recorded not only in villages on the Tamil Nadu border but also in urban Puducherry.

By the 2011 census data, Puducherry’s total population is 12.48 lakh, with the SCs constituting a mere 15.7 per cent of the figure.

The delimitation of constituencies, which was based on the 2001 census, has not empowered them to elect a representative who can voice their concerns in the Assembly.

In clear violation of the Delimitation Act, 2002, all the four reserved constituencies in Puducherry are in rural areas, with urban Puducherry remaining exclusionist.

Section 9(1)(c) of the Act says that “constituencies in which seats are reserved for the Scheduled Castes shall be distributed in different parts of the State and located, as far as practicable, in those areas where the proportion of their population to the total is comparatively large”.


Madras High Court lawyer I. Robert Chandrakumar concurs that reserved constituencies have to be spread across a State.

“People can send a petition to the Delimitation Commission seeking a reserved constituency in the urban Puducherry region. However, any change can take place only after 2026,” he says.

Even in rural areas, where the SC population constitutes not more than one-third of the population, powerful non-Dalit castes determine the candidates who get to represent the reserved constituencies.

A senior official in the Election Commission says constituencies with a large SC population were listed in descending order, with the first five constituencies in the Union Territory region being declared reserved.

S. Ramachandran of the Puducherry Progressive Writers and Artists’ Association says it is unfortunate that non-Dalits are dominant even in the reserved constituencies. While SC candidates rarely contest in general constituencies, their candidacy and success in reserved constituencies is determined by the dominant communities.

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