New Delhi, April 4 (IANS) Dina Nath is homeless and has been living in a night shelter for the past eight months. But he feels lucky to figure in the electoral roll for the April 10 Lok Sabha polls in Delhi, thanks to a concerted drive initiated by the State Election Commission in a bid to widen the reach of Indian democracy.
Dina Nath is one among the 8,000 homeless who were recently enrolled during the special drives carried out among the people living in various night shelters, under flyovers and on pavements.
"Till now we have enrolled over 8,000 homeless people in the electoral rolls for the Lok Sabha polls in Delhi," Delhi's Chief Electoral Officer Vijay Dev told IANS.
"As the homeless do not have a permanent address, the BLO (Booth Level Officers) and the RO's (Registration Officers) have been instructed to confirm the voter Id of such people only when they are found sleeping in one particular location on three consecutive visits by the election officials. It could be any night shelter, under flyovers or the pavements of any area", he added.
"The exercise was successful as the number of homeless people enrolled in the voter list increased from mere 62 (prior to the Delhi assembly elections) to 8,000,"
Vijay Dev pointed out.
Apart from those living in night shelters, on pavements, under flyovers and at bus terminals, the list also includes drugs addicts, the official said.
But Vijay Dev said the names of the homeless people will be struck off the electoral rolls if they move from one constituency to another.
"They will be eligible to vote only from the constituency from where they were found during the registration process," he added.
Fifteen NGOs were also roped in to handle the entire enrollment process across Delhi.
While the highest number of homeless registered are from central Delhi at 2,863, the lowest registered were from west Delhi at 80.
Through this exercise the poll panel also wanted to create awareness among the homeless about their voting rights.
According to state election commission data, only 30 percent of the homeless registered ahead of last December's assembly elections cast their votes.
"To make sure that the homeless people registered are residing at the same location till the delivery of the voter Id cards, our officials will themselves hand over the voter cards to them," added Vijay Dev.
The poll panel will also deliver the voter cards to the homeless people who were registered last time but didn't collect the cards.
According to the official data, there are over 60,000 homeless people in Delhi, but it is impossible to track them down as they keep on moving from place to place.
Ramu, who works as a daily wager and lives under a south Delhi flyover, felt his life will not change even if he votes.
"We have to look out for work every day so that we can earn something for our survival. What is the point in going to the polling booth and voting for a political
party that does not pay any heed to our living conditions? Nothing will happen to us," Ramu lamented.
But Dina Nath was very happy that he will figure in the electoral rolls this time.
"I have been staying in Delhi for the past eight years, but I could not enroll myself in the voter's list as I did not have a particular address. But since I am staying in this night shelter for the past five months, my name has been enrolled in the list.
"Now, the shelter home has become my address. I am very happy," Dina Nath, who stays in a night shelter near the Ramlila Maidan told IANS.
(Rupesh Datta can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)