The Delhi State Election Commission has registered nearly 6,000 homeless persons as part of its voter enrolment process this year that ended on Tuesday. Booth-level officers had fanned out to night shelters and high-density areas where homeless persons live in an effort to enrol genuine persons. Interestingly, the residential address of the homeless person would be the location where he or she sleeps in regularly.
The voter card that the homeless persons get will also go a long way in establishing their identification credentials and provide a gateway to other government services. Delhi Chief Electoral Officer Vijay Dev said that with Chief Election Commission advocating “inclusion” as its theme this year, a conscious decision was taken to enrol homeless persons who have remained outside the ambit of State services for several years. Before this initiative, only 62 homeless persons were present on the Delhi voter list.
“Our 10,000 booth-level officers were involved in the effort. I expect nearly all the 6,000 persons to make it on the finalised voter roll. When they try to get a Voter-ID cards, we used to ask for ration card. They try to get a ration card and are asked for their Voter-ID cards. We recognised their need for identification and their right to vote as citizens of the country,” Mr. Dev said.
The CEO said that booth-level officers made successive visits to night shelters, under-flyovers and other places frequented by homeless persons and only people they encountered during the repeated visit were being registered. He hoped that the model adapted in Delhi would be followed by other States too. Mr. Dev added that the registration of homeless persons would be an ongoing effort and that the Electoral Office was willing to tie up with civil society in the future too.
At the Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan permanent shelters at Fatehpuri in Old Delhi, the process of voter enrolment was completed on Monday night. The forms that were filled up had the shelter as the address of the applicants. Stalls were set up both outside the shelter on the busy S. P. Mukherjee Marg for non-inmates and inside the shelter for inmates to register for the process. Both poll officers and volunteers of the NGO filled up the forms for the homeless persons. All of them also had their photographs taken.
AAA director Paramjeet Kaur said that her organisation would keep copies of the voter cards of the around 600 inmates of the AAA shelters who had registered so that if lost or stolen, the process of getting cards made again is easier. Ms. Kaur said her organisation was referring only those homeless persons for voter cards who have been coming for long to sleep at the shelter and whose credentials her volunteers could vouch for.