Skip to main content

Plea to allow postal ballot: Only 31% of 10 crore 'long distance' migrants able to vote

By Our Representative
Several civil rights groups have represented to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to declare migrant labourers as ‘notified electors’ in order to give them the right to cast their vote through the postal ballot. They have regretted that “the attendant ills of hegemony, money power in politics, class, caste and community interests” have overshadowed the migrants’ “Constitutional right”, excluding them simply because they work “away from home.”
Citing under Section 60(c) of the Representation of People Act (RPA), 1951, the representation, made, among others, by the Citizens for Justice & Peace (CJP), led by well-known human rights activist Teesta Sitalvad, and the Lok Shakti Abhiyan, led by Prafulla Samantara, awarded the Green Nobel, Godman Environmental Prize, says, the migrants’ right to exercise their “democratic” right, unfortunately, is yet to become become part of the “political discourse” be it of the ruling party or the opposition.
While lately they have variously termed as “guest workers,” and “pravasi kamgars”, the representation their their plight is particularly visible amidst “the sheer scale of the human tragedy that the Covid-19 pandemic-driven lockdown”, which has made the migrants “victim of living under the insecurity of being paid only daily wages, with no security (leave alone insurance) in living conditions, in health, or against hunger, has brought their living conditions in the limelight.”
Citing official data, the representation says, the Census 2011 puts the number of “internal migrants” at 45 crore, a 45% surge from the earlier census of 2001. Among these, 26% of the migration, i.e., 11.7 crore, are inter-district same state migrants, while 12%, i.e., 5.4 crore, are inter-state migrants. However, the representation believes, “Most experts, including surveys authorised by the government, estimate that this number is underestimated.”
Stating that “circular migration accounts for those migrants that have not permanently relocated to the host cities, and instead circulate between host and home cities”, the representation cites studies to say that these could be 6-6.5 crore people, and accounting for family members, the representation estimates, these numbers “could approach 10 crore, of which half are inter-state migrants.”
Pointing out that survey data also show migrant labourers are “mainly from rural areas in poor regions and belong to the poorest socio-economic classes, including SC/STs and OBCs, and Other Minorities, who are often uneducated, lacking in assets, lands and specialized skills”, the representation says, “As of 2011, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were the largest source of inter-state migrants, with 83 lakh and 63 lakh migrants respectively.” 
Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were the largest source of inter-state migrants, with 83 lakh and 63 lakh migrants respectively
“While Maharashtra and Delhi were the largest receiver states”, the representation says, “In their host cities, migrant labourers work primarily in the informal sectors such as construction, textiles and other small industries, often working and living in precarious conditions and facing discrimination.” However, it adds, “Owing to their roots and residences at their home cities, most migrant voters have their voter cards for their home constituency.”
Prafulla Samantara, Teesta Setalvad
Thus, the representation says, “A 2012 study demonstrated that 78% of migrant labourers surveyed possessed voter ID cards and had their names present on voting lists of their home cities.” The result is, only 48% of the migrants surveyed voted in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections as compared to the national average of 59.7%. Further, only 31% long distance migrants could, it underlines, adding, this pattern has “stayed consistent” in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
“Additionally”, the representation says, “Given the nature of migration is circular and seasonal, the migrants are not permanent/long-term residents of the host cities and will not satisfy the requirements of being an ‘ordinary resident’ under Section 20 of the RPA in the host state to obtain voter cards and are therefore unable to transfer their constituency.” Thus, it has been found that “only 10% of migrant labourers surveyed possessed voter IDs in their host cities.”
Given this framework, the representation pleads with the ECI to “innovate” by ensuring that elections are accessible to all Indians, “regardless of class, caste or economic status”, noting how it has already “enabled flexible forms of voting by introduction of postal ballots for persons unable to vote at their registered constituency, special voters, service voters, voters on special duty, which refers to interalia persons serving in the army, other defence personnel including their spouses.”
Thus, in October 2019 ECI asked the Union ministry of law and justice to notify a new category of “absentee voters” for allowing postal ballot to those above the age of 80 and persons with disabilities. In January 2020 it recommended providing providing the facility to other “essential workers” – those working with the Railways, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation and media persons authorized to be covering the elections.
Also referring to the ECI’s 2015 recommendation allowing the use of electronic ballots to enable over 31 million (3.1 crore) Non-Resident Indians “with the aim of enabling their participation in the democratic process of elections in their motherland and boost their participation in nation-building”, the representation insists, given this framework, migrant labourers should not be “excluded from exercising their franchise”. Their exclusion, it adds, would be “not just about the political exclusion” but of “democracy itself.”

Comments

TRENDING

India's GDP down by 50%, not 23%, job loss 200 million not 122 million: Top economist

By Our Representative One of India’s topmost economists has estimated that India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decline was around 50%, and not 23%, as claimed by the Government of India’s top data body, National Statistical Organization (NSO). Prof Arun Kumar, who is Malcolm S Adiseshiah chair professor, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi, said this was delivering a web policy speech, organised by the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi.

JP advised RSS to give up Hindu Rashtra, disband itself: Ex-IAS officer tells Modi

Counterview Desk
Major MG Devasahayam IAS (Retd), chairman, People-First, in an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the occasion of Jayprakash Narain’s (JP’s) death anniversary (October 11) has wondered whether he remembers “a patriot called Jayaprakash Narayan”. Recalling what JP thought on issues such as communalism, freedom, democracy, Hindutva etc., Devasahayam says, Modi has been been doing “the very opposite of the principles and values for which JP lived and died.”

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

UP chief secretary, DGP have 'surrendered' to political diktat: 92 retired IAS, IPS officials

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, 92 retired IAS, IFS and IPS bureaucrats, commenting on “blatant violations of the rule law” following the Hathras incident, have blamed that the Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police for abjectly failing to exercise control over a “highly compromised” administration the state.

Hathras reflects Manu's mindset dominates: 'Women are false, it's in their nature to seduce'

By Parijat Ghosh, Dibyendu Chaudhuri*
The woman died and then we woke up to protest. She was alive for two weeks after the heinous incident. Many of us even didn’t notice what had happened at Hathras, how she fought during the next 15 days. Those who noticed, many of them were not sure what actually had happened. So much so, we as a nation were more busy in finding out who among the Bollywood actresses were taking drugs, who smoked weed, who had ‘inappropriate’ or more than one relationship, what kind of private conversations they had in their chat boxes and what not!

Gujarat literati flutter: State Akademi autonomy curb a Sahitya Parishad poll issue?

By Dankesh Oza*
The 115-year-old Gujarati Sahitya Parishad is in election mode. More than 3,000 life members of the Parishad are set to elect its 52nd president and 40 plus central working committee (CWC) members, which in turn will elect its executive and two vice presidents, six secretaries and a treasurer for the coming three years (from 2021 to 2023).

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur*
Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Atrocities against Dalits: Why don't MPs, MLAs from the community ever speak up?

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
In Gujarat, a young Dalit activist lawyer Devji Maheshwari, belonging to the Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMSCEF) was killed in Surat, allegedly by a goon who was warning him against his Facebook posts not to speak up against Brahmanism. Facts have come to light suggesting there are other issues also which led to the murder, mostly related to land disputes, many a time ignored by activists.

Delhi riots: Even British didn't accuse Bhagat Singh of reading Lenin, Jack London

By Vikash Narain Rai*
After the #BlackLifeMatters movement seriously tested the credibility of police across America, the Houston police chief Art Acevado talked of ending “lawful but awful” policing. No comparison, but in India, a citizens’ committee comprising former top judges and bureaucrats is now set to inquire into the role of the state machinery and media in handling the February 2020 Delhi violence, which followed protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), “as the investigation by the Delhi Police has evoked extensive critical commentary in recent times.”