The Telegraph
Friday , April 4 , 2014
CIMA Gallary

Women’s voice against vote sale

MP hopefuls of political parties are not the only ones hitting the campaign road this election season.

A group of women has taken up cudgels to spread awareness among women voters in Ranchi’s Dhurwa area.

Local NGO Lok Swar (people’s voice), headed by homemaker Shalini Samvedna, formed a task force comprising nearly 300 women of 100 self-help groups to reach out to women voters of the suburban locality and spread their message — vote se lo apna adhikaar (vote for your rights).

Sanju Saraswati, a core group member of the task force, said the drive aimed at sensitising women about the need to vote responsibly.

“Last year, Dhurwa residents were offered money in exchange for votes. But, our problems stayed unsolved. This time, we will try our best to prevent these acts,” she said.

These awareness campaigns begin when candidate rallies for the day end.

The women, most of whom homemakers, finish household chores before embarking on the door-to-door exercise.

Every evening, 12 women, who comprise the core group of the task force, meet near a medicine shop beside the Dhurwa dam to decide on localities they would cover.

Core group member Archana Singh spoke of their unique way of campaigning. “Calling individual voters is not cost-effective. So, once our husbands and children are back home and our work in the kitchen is over, we meet and decide the locality to cover. Reaching the neighbourhood, we beat steel plates with rolling pins or spoons to attract the attention of women associated with self-help groups. Then they take us to homes where we meet women and ask them to vote responsibly,” she explained.

Archana’s colleague Indrawati Pandey said they spoke to each woman, telling her to elect a candidate who would work for development.

“Many people ask ‘kitna doge’ (how much will you pay) to candidates’ representatives. But we have clear issues in front of us. Many slum-dwellers who had been displaced in anti-encroachment drives continue to be homeless. Their children are deprived of education, women are not safe and youths don’t have jobs,” she said.

Shanti Devi, who at 70, is the oldest member of the core group, said why she joined the task force.

“Elderly and illiterate people are most gullible in elections. In many cases, women support any candidate their husbands or sons tell them to. This should not happen. Women should have their own voice,” she said.

Campaign leader Shalini Samvedna told The Telegraph about their plans in the coming days.

“When the candidates go on campaigns just before the polls, we will question them on what work they had done in the past and demand reasons on why which we should vote them,” she said.