18, Jul 2020 | CJP Team
The Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent national lockdown forced lakhs of migrant workers to head back to their native villages. While many workers took long journeys to get back home after being virtually rendered unemployed and homeless, many others just wanted to be in the relative safety of rural India with their families, even as densely populated cities became hotspots of the disease.
However, with several state assembly polls as well as parliamentary by-elections elections scheduled to take place in the coming months, there are concerns about these migrants being left out of the electoral process due to their forced relocation.
This is why Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) and like minded organisations such as Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Bangla Sanskriti Manch, All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP) and Bharatiya Nagrik Adhikar Suraksha Manch, have now come together to send a memorandum to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to make provisions for migrant workers to be able to vote via postal ballot.
The memorandum says, “We are writing this letter on behalf of ‘migrant laborers’ requesting their inclusion as ‘notified electors’ under Section 60(c) of the Representation of People Act, 1951 read with Part IIIA of the Conduct of Election Rules 1961, thereby allowing such migrant laborers access to the postal ballot.”
It further says, “India’s gaze has, for the first time been turned towards the ‘Guest Worker’, the ‘Migrant Labourer’, the ‘Pravasi Kamgar’. For Indian democracy to learn the right lessons from their plight that has been brought before the more settled and privileged sections, including politicians, one crucial element must surely be to secure them the right and facility to vote.”
Making a case for how postal ballots can help empower this overlooked group of citizens, the memorandum says, “We believe that by giving migrant labourers the right to cast their vote through the postal ballot, the Election Commission of India would be taking a step towards a more inclusive democracy, ensuring that every segment of the adult and eligible Indian population gets to cast their vote and is not excluded for reasons of exigencies of their profession.”
The provision isn’t just something that is valid in wake of the Coronavirus outbreak, but has long lasting and wide-ranging ramifications for the broader issues related to the lives and voices of millions of Indians who have as much of a say in the functioning of the country as do their more privileged fellow citizens.
The entire memorandum may be read here:
- Feature image: An old man voter showing mark of indelible ink after casting his vote, at a polling booth, during the Tripura Assembly Election, in Pratapgarh, Agartala on February 18, 2018. Image Courtest Election Commission under Government Open Data License via Wikimedia Commons