Free travel has Bengali migrants rushing home to vote

The Trinamool-led state government and the West Bengal State Election Commission are still bitterly contesting the scheduling of the panchayat elections in West Bengal,but the state’s migrant labourers in Delhi have packed and are ready to go home to vote.

Written by Apurva | New Delhi | Published:April 8, 2013 1:39 am

The Trinamool-led state government and the West Bengal State Election Commission are still bitterly contesting the scheduling of the panchayat elections in West Bengal,but the state’s migrant labourers in Delhi have packed and are ready to go home to vote.

In the Bhoomiheen Camp in South Delhi,at least 4,000 families are prepared to go to vote in their home districts as return train tickets are being provided free of charge.

The elections are scheduled to be held on April 26.

Geeta Talukdar from Burdwan district said her tickets were booked and delivered to her two weeks ago. “We have been working in Delhi for 12 years now,but every time there is an election,we go back to our village to vote and are provided free train tickets to do this,” Talukdar said.

Talukdar said there were at least a hundred families from her neighbourhood who would soon journey to West Bengal to vote.

“We all stay in Delhi in rented houses in jhuggi clusters and we have no identity proof here. So we have to vote in our state,” Talukdar said.

According to Anand Laha,who drives an autorickshaw,most migrants in the camp were daily-wage labourers or domestic helps.

“We come here with our families for better opportunities. The men usually find work as drivers,cleaners or construction labourers,while the women primarily work in residential colonies,” Laha said.

CPM Central Committee Member,Nilotpal Basu said,“Delhi has lakhs of migrant labourers from West Bengal working in several sectors. But their roots run deep and they return religiously to vote for every election — be it local,Assembly or Parliament.”

Sukhdev Singh,who owns six houses in the same camp,said while the Bhoomiheen colony housed at least 6,000 families,most were tenants.

“In my six houses,there are about 12 families who are all returning to West Bengal to vote. They are all migrant labourers in South Delhi,but will leave on April 10 and return after 20 days,” Singh said.

He said since March,workers from various parties contesting the polls roamed the Bhoomiheen Camp attempting to convince families.

“In the last two weeks,I have booked train tickets for at least 250 families. There are no tickets available now,but the demand is still high. Some people are even willing to travel by bus,” Gautam,who runs an Internet cafe nearby,said.

He said there were only two occasions when the demand for tickets peaked — during Navratri and ahead of any elections.

“Last year,all families went home twice — in October for the festivals and in June for the municipal elections. This year will be the same,” Gautam said.

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