Migrant workers and daily wage labourers from come to the city looking for means to earn their livelihood. Although they give their blood and sweat to the city, it seems that only a small percentage of them actually get voting rights.
Many have been living in Bangalore for more than 20 years.
With the elections to the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Council round the corner, The Hindu spoke to migrant workers and daily wage labourers from Tumkur district, and other States, including Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana.
Soundara Rajan, a native of Tamil Nadu who has been living in Bangalore for 20 years, said that he still did not have a voter's identity card. He claimed that his name did not even figure in the voter's list. “A couple of us actually submitted the requisite forms more than twice,” he said.
Another contract worker, Shanmugam M. claimed that he had submitted the form three times already. “However, I was unable to follow it up all the three times due to work. We are all contract workers. We cannot be sure when we get work. And we do get work, we cannot give it up to go stand in a queue at a government office,” he said.
Mr. Shanmugam said that he too was a native of Tamil Nadu, like Mr. Soundara Rajan, and had been living in the city for 30 years. “I am sad that I am unable to exercise my right to vote. I feel that my status as a citizen is questioned, as I am unable to vote and be involved in my city's development,” he added. Banwari Lal from Rajasthan and Bedaprakash Sharma from Madhya Pradesh have been living in the city for the past 18 years and four years respectively, while Ram Bhajan and Maharaj Singh, both from Madhya Pradesh, work here for six months a year. “We have rental agreements and passbooks as address and identity proof. However, we do not know whom to approach to get a voter photo card. Most of us have not voted in the previous elections,” said Mr. Lal.
He claimed that just around 10 per cent of the workers from other States might actually have a voter's identity card. According to Veeramani, president of CITU's Construction Workers' Wing, many migrant workers and daily wage labourers did not bother to get a voter's identity card.
“CITU helps these workers get an identity card issued by the State Government's Welfare Board. Workers can claim benefits, apply for a ration card and voter's identity card.
However, Isaac Arul Selva of Slum Jagattu said that the system in the State was not inclusive. “The system excludes not just workers from other States from the election process, but also from our own.
There are hundreds of migrant and daily wage workers from north Karnataka who have been living in 64 slums across the city for decades. More than 90 per cent of them have still not been included in the voters' list.”