In a novel experiment of grass-root democracy, hundreds of citizens in a lane in Begumpet turned up at five polling stations to decide the fate of a liquor shop in the area.
The Gurumurthy Lane in Begumpet was abuzz with activity on Saturday as residents in the area voted to decide whether a liquor shop at the entrance should be allowed to function or not. “I came out to vote as women are having a problem while entering or leaving the lane. The men buy liquor, drink there and create a ruckus. We fear for our safety,” said Vijaya Lahoti, a resident who turned up to vote at a polling booth in a school.
By 1 p.m., 274 residents had voted among the 1,000 residents mapped by the organisation that came up with the idea. “There is a fault line between what people want and how the rules function. The elected representatives are supposed to represent people. Once the vote is in, we will take it up with elected representatives and government officials,” informed Kota Neelima, who organised the Hakku Citizen Referendum with 15 volunteers.
The polling began at 8 a.m. and is set to end at 8 p.m. with two stationary booths and three mobile booths.
“The liquor shop is a recent addition. I have to stand near that place to pick up and drop my children. It becomes very uncomfortable as many drunkards block the lane,” said Lakshmi, a homemaker who asked passing residents to stop and vote.
“I have no problem with the liquor shop but it should not occupy the common space. We have as much right on common spaces as businesses. Traffic has become a nightmare as buyers stop vehicles in the lane and rush to the liquor store,” said a resident of Vishnu Elite apartment.
The residents who were allowed to vote needed to show that they lived in the area to be eligible to vote. Among the hundreds of voters, a liquor shop owner turned up with his partner to vote. “We experimented with something similar in Kasturba Nagar, Delhi, where 10,000 people participated. We will meet the Chief Minister to get the problem redressed,” said Ms. Neelima.