D.V.L. Padma Priya

Wherever they are migrant workers are brought to villages to vote

Contractors pay them money, decide for whom they should vote

HYDERABAD: For Rangamma, a daily wage labourer from Mahabubnagar, elections means promises of a good life from the politicos. Every election, workers like her are taken back to their hometown to cast their votes. “We vote for the party to which our contractor asks us to. We are given Rs. 150 per vote and at times we vote in two-three different polling booths at once,” she says. The indelible ink is removed immediately by a chemical, the worker says.

“On voting day we are assured of food, liquor and paid for every vote we cast,” says Tirupataiah, another daily wage labourer from Prakasam district adding that “our contractor or his men are with us while we cast our vote”. Their tales break the popular conception that migrant workers are hardly a vote bank. “Every election season, the local leaders track us however far we go, whichever State we are in and bring us back to our village to vote. They promise us that they would create jobs for us in our village. Nothing really happens,” says a 60-year-old worker from Nalgonda district.

Striking deals

Though contractors are tight-lipped about this, some do accept that they are paid huge sums of money for the same. One contractor at Yousufguda, who has over 60 workers under him, says that migrant workers are in great ‘demand’ during elections. He adds that many contractors strike ‘deals’ with different parties at the same time. “They vote in two-three constituencies at once. The polling agent doesn’t ask them for any proof as they are labourers,” he says.

However, the workers are a disgruntled lot for being denied their political rights. “If we were in a better position, we would vote to who we think is the best for us or for our region and not be obliged to our contractors,” says Yaddaiah who hails from Karimnagar. The women are more vocal in their objections. “Not one politician even thinks of people like us. We are invisible though we are from this State,” says Rangamma.

Others point out that though the government offers schemes for the upliftment of the poor, it is not applicable for them as they don’t stay at one place. “The lack of a permanent address has left us in a lurch as we don’t have one and most of the government forms ask for one,” says Muthyalaiah, a worker from East Godavari. Their demands are simple and basic. “Provide us with a roof on our head, a job in our hand and education for our children,” they say.