Gujarati migrant community in Raghubir Nagar boycotted last Delhi assembly elections but would vote this time to retain their identity
Jasleen Kaur | November 13, 2013
Used clothes are the first thing you notice when you step inside the one room that serves as home for Shraddha Behn – like most other homes in Raghubir Nagar’s F block. A pile of old dresses tied together is lying in one corner, bundles of used clothes on the floor. Like most of her neighbours, Shraddha Behn’s family too is in the business of recycling old clothes, collecting them by making door to door rounds, and offering new steel utensils in exchange.
Shraddha came from a village in Gujarat after her marriage and has been staying here for 35 years. She has five sons and two daughters, and all but the youngest of them are married. She shares her one-room house with her husband, a daughter and the family of one of her sons.
Delhi assembly elections are round the corner and she intends to vote this time. She believes voting is important to ensure her name is not deleted from the voters list. “Our community boycotted elections last time and we did not vote. But we were told that they (officials) would delete our name from the voters list. If our name is deleted, we would not have any identity. Where would we go?” asks Shraddha. Beyond this, she says, she has no other reason to cast vote. “Political parties never help us. They do not even show their face in five years. We work, earn and live all on our own.”
The community of Gujarati migrants had decided to boycott the last assembly elections to press its demand for caste certificates in order to to avail various government benefits. The Delhi government has refused to issue the certificate as it does not count their caste among the backwards.
For Shradha’s husband, Villa, vote is a hope to get cheaper electricity this time. “We just have a television, a tubelight and a fan in our house. There is no cooler, refrigerator or washing machine. But we still pay electricity bills as high as Rs 3,000 (a month). How can we afford it?” he says.
There are many families in the locality who face the problem. They say their bill amounts have gone up three fold in the last few years.
Talking of problems and expectations from the new government, they also mention lack of basic urban amenities, open drains and lanes filled with garbage. “The workers do not clean the roads and drains, even once a month. Whenever they come, they take Rs 10 from each family to clean it. Even when there was dengue scare they did not visit our place for fumigation,” says Savitri, who is reluctant to cast her vote. She says she has been staying in the locality for the last many years but has not seen any improvement in and around. “Have we got any benefits? Ninety percent of the families do not send their children to school; is there anything the government doing about it? They are not making them aware,” she adds.
Savitri asks if the political parties can spend a lot on rallies why don’t they spend some on development of the area. “They spent so much on Modi’s rally. They took people from here as well. But for five years they did not show their face. People here are not educated to understand the importance of their vote and how they can use it as to get their rights,” she says.
But, she adds, she would vote to ensure her name is not deleted from the voters list. “That is the only identity we have. What would we do without it,” she asks.
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