Looking forward to the upcoming Delhi Assembly elections is an enthusiastic bunch of first-time voters comprising teenagers who have lived and grown up on the Capital’s streets. They have now opted to speak their mind and demand that political parties “earn” their vote.

The youth, who are part of non-government organisation Badthe Kadam (Federation of Street and Working Children) and refuse to continue living as “ghosts who are never heard and noticed,” have now written an open letter to political parties demanding their rights.

Delhi has around five lakh street and working children. This time around, approximately 1,500 to 2,000 children with the federation, will get the opportunity to vote for the first time.

“The upcoming elections have raised hopes of first-time voters. We feel that this is our opportunity to highlight our demands and insist that we be counted. Previously, we were just children who lived on the streets. Today we have the power to vote and can influence political parties,” said 18-year-old Vijay, the former national secretary and present advisory of Badthe Kadam.

He claims to be “very excited about being a first-time voter”. “My vote goes to the party that will accept my demands.”

Meanwhile, the demands of first-time voters who have grown up on the streets include official acknowledgment of the presence of street and working children and their proper count, working towards ensuring that all schemes for street and working children reach them in time, that street children be made part of future government meetings if their issues are discussed and that timely action be taken against persons engaging child labour.’’

Federation director Sanjay Gupta said: “We are happy to see that street children have become empowered enough to know and demand their rights. They clearly have come a long way.’’

Fifteen-year-old Chandini, a former rag picker who is now with Badthe Kadam, said: “We know we have been ignored by all political parties, but we believe that our time has come and that we will stand united and become educated and empowered future voters. We will not be taken lightly. We know that politicians and big parties can be defeated even with one vote. We have understood that we count and this time we have come with over 1,500 votes from Badthe Kadam alone.”

More In: Delhi