Many migrant workers not going home to vote

April 1st, 2009 - 1:47 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 1 (IANS) Come ballot day, many of the domestic maids, small shopkeepers and other migrant workers in the capital will be going home to vote, as they have done in the past. But this time, many others will not, thanks to the economic meltdown.
Latika Das, 45, is a part-time maid in various homes at Chittaranjan Park in south Delhi. She said she has written to her family in Purulia district of West Bengal that she will not be able to reach the village for the Lok Sabha elections.

“Every election, local political leaders, mostly from the CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist), tell my family about election dates in advance so that I can book my rail tickets. But this year I cannot go because I am sustaining myself on just two jobs now. My son does not work, and I do not have enough money to go home for a month.”

In the wake of the economic meltdown, many households in and around Delhi have dismissed their maids, particularly those who had more than one.

“I lost my job after my employers went abroad last month,” said Zeenat, a housemaid in Mayur Vihar, east Delhi. Her former employers used to work in software firms, but both husband and wife were laid off recently.

Zeenat, a native of Uttar Pradesh, will not be able to go home to vote.

“I have told my family that I will be home later this year,” she said, though she feared that someone may cast a false ballot in her name. “It is a common practice”.

Priya Ganguly, a journalist, is happy. Her maid is not going home to West Bengal to vote.

“She is not springing a nasty surprise this time,” she said. Ganguly felt it had nothing to do with the meltdown.

However, some others are on their way home.

A group of 12 cooks, domestic helps and fish sellers from Chittaranjan Park, Vasant Kunj and Gurgaon are leaving for their homes in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal April 8 though the election will be held a month later.

“We will vote in early May,” said Sukumar Das, a cook.

His friend Lakshman Bhuiyan, who sells fish, will leave for his village in Midnapore in West Bengal April 5.

“We have to travel for three days to reach home,” he said. The CPI-M, he said, will reimburse their travel expenses. “It is a good time for an annual holiday.”

At a high-rise construction site in Nehru Place, some daily wage labourers from villages near Jharkhand capital Ranchi are preparing to go home. They are mostly tribals, brought to New Delhi by a Haryana-based construction firm.

“Every election, we vote and make it a point to go home. Booking (train) tickets is difficult. We would like to reach our villages by mid-April,” said Nathu Ram, a Santhal. He has been in Delhi for six months with his sons. Traditionally, they are supporters of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.

While the daily wage earners from Jharkhand are eager to vote, primarily because they have a state of their own, Jagjeet Yadav, an auto-rickshaw driver from Bhojpur in central Bihar, is not planning to go home.

“I had to sell my old auto-rickshaw and purchase a new one on loan. It is a heavy burden. The steep prices of everything weigh heavily on my shoulders. I have parents in the village. I have to support them. I’ve a wife and three children in Delhi. I make only Rs.3,000 a month. I don’t think I will go home this election.

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