Ahead of the Delhi Assembly elections, over 7,500 voters were registered

Proud to be finally “counted as voters”, several homeless persons, who exercised their franchise for the first time, flaunted their inked fingers and recently received voter identity cards outside a polling station in the Chandni Chowk constituency.

In their excitement of casting vote, some even revealed the party they voted for only to be shushed by others fellow voters and officials.

Some others, however, said they were not even familiar with the constituency in which they were voters and decided to vote just because their peers were going to the booths.

“A citizen now”

Talking to The Hindu, one such voter Manish (23) who lives in a night shelter at Jhandewalan said he went to cast his vote at a booth in Phool Mandi. He admitted that a constant search for work does not give him the luxury of being abreast of the developments in his constituency and voting for him meant a never-before kind of realisation that he, too, was a citizen of the country.

Having lost both his parents at an early age and having no financial support to fall back on, Manish left his home at West Bengal’s Malda almost a decade ago and came to the Capital in search of work.

According to voluntary organisation the Aashray Adhikar Abhiyan (AAA), Manish’s story bears a close resemblance to nearly 1.5 lakh homeless people in Delhi, who are mostly migrant workers.

One of the homeless voters, 67-year-old Bhaiyalal, said this was the first time in more than six decades of his life that he had voted.

The Delhi Election Commission launched a drive last year ahead of the Delhi Assembly elections in all the districts to enrol homeless persons as voters. The Commission roped in organisations like the AAA for easy identification of such voters.

The efforts resulted in registration of over 7,500 voters although only a fraction of them went to vote on Wednesday. Many of them said the compulsion of looking for work kept them away from casting votes.

Highlighting the importance of participation by this vulnerable section, Sanjay Kumar from the AAA said by encouraging homeless persons to vote, the institutions would enable them to demand for their rights that they have been hitherto denied.

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