They are not politicians, but elections earn them a living. In the small, dingy bylanes of the Idgah area in Seelampur’s Janta Colony, hundreds of women toil to produce canvassing material, such as flags and banners, used in campaigns in the run-up to the assembly elections. The money they earn in these few weeks feeds their families for the rest of the year.
Forty-eight-year-old Zubeida Ansari and her daughters Ruksana, 22, and Sahana, 24, sit in a small one-bedroom chawl, surrounded by colourful Congress flags. Ever since her husband died three years ago, Zubeida and her daughters earn their bread by stitching flags of various political parties.
“We personally do not support any party. We stitch the flags of whichever party’s orders we get, and right now there is a demand for Congress flags,” Zubeida said.
While Zubeida has been stitching flags for the past 25 years, Ruksana and Sahana have been doing it since before they can remember. “I think we started stitching when we were four or five. I can’t exactly recall,” said Sahana.
As the elections draw closer, their workload increases. “The three of us work together for 14 hours a day,” said Ruksana. When asked if they feel tired, Sahana laughs and said: “We are used to it.”
“We need to work the most during this time, before elections. During this period we can make up to Rs 13,000. This money has to last us the entire year, as we don’t get much work the rest of the year,” she said.
In a nearby house, 11-year-old Shaima Khan does not understand politics, nor knows what political parties are. However, she helps her mother, Meena, fold up the flags she stitches every evening, with baby Rehan in hand. After all, it is what she is missing school for.