Pune: Deprived sections to vote for the first time today

Apr 17, 2014, 07:19 IST | Priyankka Deshpande

Denied their right to vote all these years, quarry labourers, transgenders and commercial sex workers will exercise their right to vote for the first time today

In a highly competitive election this year, where every vote counts, the district administration has been hard at work to get everyone to vote, including sections that have till now been deprived of this fundamental right. City-based NGOs have been toiling for the voting rights of these communities for the last few years by conducting awareness campaigns. Their voices were heard when these forgotten sections made it to the voting list for this year’s polls. They are all set to caste their vote today for the first time.

Bastu Rege (in yellow) from Santulan NGO informs quarry workers about their voting rights. Pic/Mohan Patil

Bastu Rege from Santulan NGO has been working for the quarry labourers for the past 20 years. He said that initially it was impossible even to think about registering quarry labourers in the voter’s list, as they did not have proper identity proof. “The first task was to give them ration and Aadhar cards. This made it easy to enrol them in the list,” Rege said. He however added that as quarry workers in the district never voted, it was difficult to make them understand the importance of voting. According to Rege his NGO was successful in enrolling 20,000 quarry labourers in voter’s registration list.

City-based Vanchit Vikas Sanstha has been fighting for the rights of commercial sex workers (CSW) living mainly in the shoddy areas of Budhwar Peth. The organisation’s project head, Minakshi Navale said that apart from Bangladeshi and Nepali citizens, more than 50 per cent of Indian sex workers, out of the 2,000 members of their NGO have made it to the voter’s list through various registration drives conducted by district election department.

“I don’t have to remind them that today they have to come out of their houses to cast their votes, as they are already excited to exercise their right. All of them received their voter’s identity card and there should be no obstacles from them to exercise their right to vote,” Navale said.

The city-based
transgenders were not too keen to cast their vote until the last two years. In 2011, the census form introduced the column of transgender and eventually the form 6 (registration of new voters) of Election Commission of India also introduced the new column. “We always wanted to vote just like any other India citizen, however, when ECI introduced the third gender column we all enrolled ourselves in the voter’s registration list,” said President of Ashirwad NGO, Panna Gabrel. The NGO works for the rights of third genders. “I attended each and every meeting called by the district election department and
successfully enrolled 250 third genders in voter’s registration list,” Gabrel said.

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