Mumbai: Tribals walk 4 km to cast their votes in the Assembly elections

Some walked distances as long as 4 km to get to the nearest polling booths, in the hope that the elected representative would provide better facilities and services to the otherwise neglected community

While several voters in the suburbs no doubt chose to enjoy the holiday yesterday without voting, the young and old living in adivasi padas in Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) and Aarey Milk Colony turned out in large numbers to exercise their franchise, in the hope that they will succeed in electing a good leader who will provide them with basic facilities they have lacked for decades.

Javlu Wagat (65) displays his inked finger
Javlu Wagat (65) displays his inked finger

Even though the nearest polling booths were situated as far as 4 km away for some of them, they remained undeterred in their desire to vote. Spread out across several padas in Aarey Colony and SGNP, the tribal community has been deprived of basic amenities such as electricity and water supply for over 60 years.

However, instead of giving up the government and the electoral process, the adivasis have taken it upon themselves to elect a leader who can eventually help them. Raman Kolejkar (30), a resident of Tumnipada a tribal pada nestled within the core forest area in SGNP said, “We have walked more than 4 km to cast our vote because we know that if good people are not elected, we will never get better facilities.

All our community members have decided to vote.” Bharat Ghuma (27), a voter from another adivasi pada in SGNP, said, “Even though we lack basic facilities, we come out in large numbers and vote because we feel that if we elect a better candidate, then our problems will be solved. Although my friend dropped me at the polling station, I will now have to walk 4 km to get home.”

Several hoped however, that during the next election, more polling booths would be set up closer to their residences, so that at least the elderly are spared the strain of walking such long distances. Tribals residing in adivasi padas in Aarey Milk Colony also participated in large numbers, and voted in spite of the fact that some had to walk over 1 km or suffer a bumpy ride through the pothole-ridden Aarey Colony road.

Khambtachapada resid-ent, Javlu Janya Wagat (65) said, “My ancestors have been living in Aarey for over 100 years, but we still have no electricity, because of which the children have to use lanterns while studying. We are voting only because we want development, and facilities like proper roads, lights and fresh drinking water.”

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