Voting is our duty, say Delhi’s slum dwellers

May 7th, 2009 - 3:50 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 7 (IANS) Basanti Devi, a rickshaw puller’s wife in north Delhi’s Nirankari Colony area, is not sure if her vote would bring about dramatic changes, but she voted anyway Thursday because she feels it is her “duty”.
“Political parties come to power and go, but things hardly change. Bijli, pani ka problem to hamesha rehta hai (water shortage and power cuts are a perennial problem). However, that does not mean that I will not cast my vote… it is my duty,” Devi told IANS, while waiting in a queue at a polling booth.

“I have always voted. I don’t know if it will make life any better for me, but things should not become worse,” she added.

As Delhi went to the polls Thursday, about 11.09 million people - nearly four million of them in the age group of 18-29 - were eligible to vote at 11,348 polling booths, spread across seven constituencies, to decide the fate of 160 candidates.

Delhi is estimated to have over 3.5 million slumdwellers.

Showing his inked finger, Raghu Kishore, a scrap dealer, said there were no second thoughts when it came to casting his vote.

“Vote to dalna hi hai (I have to cast my vote)… there were no second thoughts. I voted last time too,” Kishore said, covering his head with a black and white handkerchief to protect himself from the heat.

“Of course, I want better amenities. In the area I live, there are no proper roads and during monsoons the situation becomes unimaginable… I have to fold my trousers to the knee and walk through a pool of muddy water. The entire place becomes filthy.

“When I go to collect scrap in the upscale colonies I sometimes wish that our place would also become like that someday. Probably if we get a good leader, it would,” Kishore said.

For some slum dwellers, using the electronic voting machine (EVM) to cast their vote was intimidating.

“I was scared. I don’t know how to read and write, so when the officer was telling me how to use the machine, I thought I would definitely mess up,” said Rakhi Devi, who works as a domestic help.

“But I think he understood my predicament and said that just push the button next to the symbol I want to support. Phir maine haath ko vote diya (I voted for the hand - the Congress symbol),” she smiled, holding her baby.

Devi’s husband, a rickshaw puller, however, did not cast his vote. “He had to go for work. We literally live hand to mouth… a few hours lost means a great loss to us. Anyway I voted, so it’s alright,” she said.

Till 11 a.m., Delhi had recorded 17.53 percent polling.

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