Anjaneya, 21, is a B.A. final year student from Raichur in North Karnataka, who is now helping lay footpaths in an upmarket area of Bengaluru.
“We will go for one day, cast our vote, and come back. We are here because during summer, no agriculture is possible.... Farmers need to be helped with loan waivers and other measures as variations in rain is affecting us a lot. We have 1.5 acres but the crop was destroyed due to heavy rain. I am doing labour while studying so I can get a better job,” he said.
As election fever catches up in Karnataka and political discourse overshadows everything else, for the large number of migrant workers in Bengaluru, who come from far and near in search of work, the world is the same. According to the Census 2011 data on migration into cities and States, not only did the number of migrants in Karnataka increase from the previous decade, but with 42.12% of Greater Bengaluru’s population originating from outside the district or outside the State, ranking second among comparable metros with migrant populations.
First time voter, but cannot vote
Like most first-time voters, Yellamma, 20, was looking forward to casting her vote this time. But she is far away from her hometown in Raichur district, toiling in Bengaluru as a migrant worker. Belonging to a family of agricultural labourers, travelling to the city in search of work during the summer months is a routine affair. “I had studied till class X, but could not go any further because of problems at home. My husband’s family and I are here now and may not be able to vote. If we didn’t have loans and had work in our hometown, we need not have come here,” she said, as she laid a footpath with others from her district.
Stuck in the city, she asked the new government to control price rise: “We live in sheds here and the bathroom is outside. When it rains, the sheds leaks. In the city, we also have to spend extra to buy things as they are expensive,” she said. Gangavathi also came from Raichur and is living in a labour colony in Jakkur. “The local politicians back home ask us to cast our vote in return for getting us basic documents. But no one bothers giving us houses or jobs,” she says.
Gowramma, Mannamma and Doddasomappa are also from the same district, working in another part of the city. They were seen cleaning the roadside drains, lifting silt and garbage ahead of the monsoon. “We have to spend ₹600-700 for our bus journey to go cast out vote,” said Gowramma, adding that if they had shelter and small land holdings, they would not have had to travel so far for work. Sitting and watching them is 12-year-old Rajshekhar. “I came here with my parents. I like my village better,” he said, as his mother intervenes and says she has no option but to bring him to the work site as she cannot leave him at the labour camp.
From other parts of country
Bengaluru is also become home to a large number of migrants from other parts of the country. Chotu, from Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, came to the city 10 years ago and set up a roadside nursery. “My vote goes waste as I am registered in my hometown. My baby, wife, and parents are there, so are all my documents. So I can’t register here and I cannot keep travelling to U.P. as well,” he says.
“Bengaluru has almost become like Mumbai. People here are nice., but I cannot afford a house on rent. That is why I left my family in my hometown. I live at the nursery. I cannot ask for anything from the government here because I don’t vote here,” he said. “Employment needs to be generated where we are. Why should we live away from family for work?”