Beggars have no a right to choose! And these days, they are in demand.
Representatives of various political parties campaigning for the April 28 assembly polls have been wooing them heavily to cast vote in their favour.
“Election time, they come with hands folded asking for votes,” said Chummanlal, a beggar who has been residing in slums behind Nadwa. “They also promise us the sky, promise us better living condition and land, but forget everything once the voting is over and disappear only to re-appear in the next election,” said Sajanwa. They both claimed that they had been voting for the last many years, may be over 40 years. “But, do you see any improvement in our living condition,” asked Chummanlal.
Ram Khilawan, a septuagenarian, has been begging in front of the temple at Hanuman Setu for the last several years. “The campaigners are ashamed of asking for votes here,” he said. They come to our jhuggies,” said Mauji. He has not been regular in voting but claimed to have found entry in the voters' list.
Earlier, the candidates had promised us to shift us to better shelters, and even get our land regularised, but there's doesn't seem any effort in that direction, said Fakir Miyan, and added that this time he would vote only for a genuine candidate.” Please help us in getting our voters' Identity cards,” he begged. There are many voters in the slums and also beggars who have not been issued identity cards yet, despite the district magistrate's assurance that the voters' I cards should be distributed by April 20.
Whether they get paid in cash or kind for voting, Fakir refused to take any obligation from any representative of a political party, but he claimed that he had heard that the party workers resort to distributing liquor in his slums surreptiously a day before the election to lure the voters to vote in their favour,” he said. But for Mauji, the situation is different. "They threaten to uproot us from the present settlement and render us shelterless if we do not go and cast vote".
There's no separate census of the beggars in voters' list, therefore their exact number cannot be known. “But they have a right to vote,” said the ADM (Admn) Abrar Ahmed.
Advocate IB Singh said that voting was a legal right and the beggars could exercise their franchise. Citing an example, he said former Prime Minister VP Singh had got a whole lot of people living in the slums on the bank of Yamuna enrolled in the voters' list.