The Travails of Getting a Vote in UP

Mahua, District Banda. It’s been about one and a half years since the Lok Sabha elections happened. Now the zila panchayat elections are happening. The elections for the Pradhan position are due to start in a month, and the Vidhan Sabha elections are going to happen in 2017.DSCN7088

So it’s startling that at least half the people in Mahua have no form of identity proof, and specifically, they don’t have voter ID cards. For about ten years, these people have not voted in any election. They have filled out forms repeatedly to put their names on the ID card list at the B.L.O (Booth Level Office). However, till today, they have not got their identity cards.

Hanif and Bashir tell us that for about ten years, they have not voted in a single election. Earlier, when identity cards were not asked for, they could vote freely. Rafique, Imami, Ajmeri and Ibrahim say that since the government instituted the voter ID card rule they’ve been disenfranchised of their votes. Since then, they have been struggling to get identity cards. Wasim and Vakeel say that in addition to not being able to vote, many other things get obstructed due to their lack of identity proof. “If we have to get a ticket to travel, or if we want to get a bank account opened, or if we need to get an important document made – we just can’t get it done, it takes such a long time.”

DSCN7096Pradhan Raju Kabeer says that in this village, their is less than 50% voter turnout. Some people, of course, live outside the village (such as migrant labourers) but many people, while they live in the village, can’t vote because they don’t have ID cards. “It’s really worse for [the local politicians] than it is for the voters,” says the Pradhan, “but it’s the fault of the people who work at the BLOs in the villages. I’ve written a complaint to the Block office.”

Hussainpur Kala Booth Level Officer Ramkishore Sahu says that he was put on duty in Mahua, but he was not given the authority to issue identity cards. This only officers that can do this are officers that have worked at the Vidhan Sabha level. “If they take a photocopy of the voter list and attach their picture to it, and submit it to the district Election Office with a twenty rupee fee, they will have their ID cards in fifteen days.”

Apparently, now people can apply for voter ID cards through mobile apps. However, in impoverished villages where electricity comes and goes, it doesn’t seem likely that that will actually make the process as accessible as the government proclaims it will.

Read the original Hindi story here.