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Identity crisis for unmarried women

- In several villages, girls say they have been denied voter cards

Vote? Ladikyan vote nahi deti. Sirf aurat, mard or ladke vote dete hain,” said Reena, 20, who will probably get her elector’s photo identity card (EPIC) after marriage.

Reena, who lives in Nilkanth Tola, Goraiya Sthan, ward No. 5 of Maner, said: “This year, I tried to get my name enrolled on the voter list. But the officer at the camp office said only married girls of the village will get voter ID cards. All the newlywed girls in my village have got their EPICs.”

Like Reena, there are almost 40 girls in the village who are deprived of their rights. Many of them are not even aware of the polling dates. Kushum, 22, told The Telegraph: “Pata nahi kab vote dalna hai. Meri shaadi hogi to hum bhi dalenge. Bhaiya log kabhi kabhi Misa Bharti ka naam leta hai.

Kushum is also unaware of the candidates and the election symbols. She shared her experience: “The officers do not consider us to be members of the village. We are supposed to get married to get our EPICs. I have not seen how the polling booth and machine looks like. I am eagerly waiting to get married to get my voter ID card.”

Some girls are relying on their D-day to get their voting cards while some others are still struggling to get their name enrolled on the voter list.

Reena (second from left) and the other women at Nilkanth Tola. Picture by Jai Prakash

Asked about the know-how of Nilkanth Tola, Sanjay Kumar, deputy secretary, election department, said: “No such complaints have been registered yet. But if any complaint is registered on the basis of such gender discrimination, the deputed officer will be punished under disciplinary action. If you go through last year’s enrolment, you will find more female than male entries.”

The married female voters have got their identity card but the decisive power to cast the vote is still in the hands of male members. Leela Devi, who works as a domestic help, is a resident of Singhwara village. Asked about how they decide the suitable candidates to vote for, she said: “Humlog ko kuch nahi pata hai. Hamara mard aata hai or humko jo parchi par likh kar deta hai, hum wahin vote dalte hain. (I don’t know about the candidates. On the polling day, my husband gives me the details about the candidate including the symbol. I vote for the same).”

Jawanti Devi, 80, has been casting votes for the past 20 years. Astonishingly, she does not know the names of the candidates she has voted for. “Humko naam nahi pata. Mera pati sirf chunaw chinnh batata hai. Hum wahi ja kar daba dete hain. (I don’t remember the names of the candidates. My husband tells me the candidate’s party symbol. I press the button beside that.)”

Asked about the reason, she added: “Women are not allowed to talk about election and candidates. The male members of the family decide whom to vote for. But in some villages, the bahubalis decided whom to vote for. Women are kept away from the elections.”

There are more than 1,000 voters who enjoy their right of casting vote, unaware of the fact that they are being deprived of their decisive power.

l Pataliputra votes on April 17