Delhi poll panel seeks NGO help to enrol the homeless, sex workers

The project is one of the special drives launched by the DEC ahead of fresh Assembly Elections in the city.

Written by Sumegha Gulati | New Delhi | Published: May 24, 2014 2:58 am

The Delhi Election Commission (DEC) has enlisted the help of social workers to get the homeless and those from the fringes of society involved in the electoral process. In a workshop on Friday, DEC officials met NGOs to discuss how to enrol homeless voters and sex workers on electoral lists.

More than 20 NGOs attended the workshop, which discussed steps to increase the number of homeless voters and tackle issues of nationality and lack of permanent address.

The project is one of the special drives launched by the DEC ahead of fresh Assembly Elections in the city. “Though the exact number of homeless in the city cannot be ascertained, we are trying to make an effort in bridging the gap. The main issue is how to make ID cards for people who live on the fringes of society,” Delhi Chief Electoral Officer Vijay Dev said.

In the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, more than 7,000 homeless voters were enrolled. However, continuous efforts are on to increase their numbers, the Election Commission said. In this regard, it has also been decided that a nodal officer will be appointed in each district to coordinate with NGOs working with the homeless and sex workers.

“Since the homeless and sex workers often do not have permanent addresses, they will be registered through the NGOs. The NGOs will give a letter to each homeless person so that it becomes easier to verify and cross check their details,” a DEC official said.

It has also been decided that the word “homeless” will be removed from voting cards. Speaking to Newsline, Geetanjali Babbar, founder of Kat-Katha — a group which works with sex workers —  said of nearly 4,000 women living in the red-light district, GB Road, only 300 had voter cards.

“About four months ago, we collaborated with DEC and they extended immense support to us. We got voter ID cards for 300 sex workers. It’s a cycle — since they don’t have voter cards, they cannot vote. And since they can’t vote, they have no voice,” Babbar said.

Babbar said the election body had sped up the process of making voter-cards for sex workers. “They also changed the addresses of all sex workers enrolled from GB Road to Shraddhanand Marg after we pointed out that women did not use their voter cards because of the stigma attached to being a GB road resident,” she said.

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