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regular-article-logo Saturday, 20 July 2024

Travel cost keeps migrant workers from Malda and Murshidabad districts from turning up to vote

Third phase in Bengal sees few outstation minority voters as most had come home for Eid last month

Alamgir Hossain, Soumya De Sarkar Behrampore/Malda Published 08.05.24, 10:11 AM
Women voters at a polling station guarded by women central force personnel in Manikchak, Malda Dakshin constituency, on Tuesday

Women voters at a polling station guarded by women central force personnel in Manikchak, Malda Dakshin constituency, on Tuesday Picture by Soumya De Sarkar

Manirul Islam, a 35-year-old from Samserganj in Murshidabad, preferred to stay back at his workplace in Kerala instead of taking a 2,500km long train journey to reach home and cast his vote on Tuesday, the third phase of the ongoing Lok Sabha polls.

In Bengal, four seats in Malda and Murshidabad districts — Malda Uttar and Dakshin, Jangipur and Murshidabad — voted on Tuesday. However, most migrant workers from these two districts didn’t turn up to vote.

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“I went home last month on the occasion of Eid-Ul-Fitr (on April 11). Again, I have to go home in June for Eid-Ul-Adha (on June 17). That is why I thought of staying back and didn’t go home to vote,” said Manirul over the phone.

Ahead of the elections, migrant workers turn up at their homes in groups to vote. In Malda and Murshidabad, there are around 10 lakh people who work in other states.

“This time, I couldn’t make such frequent trips. I will come home in June as I always try to celebrate religious events with my family. I lost some earnings over last month’s visit. Before June, I need to make some money to meet the expenses for Eid-Ul-Adha. So I skipped the elections,” said Wasim Akram from Farakka of Murshidabad district who works as a construction worker in Mumbai.

As political parties had launched their poll campaigns in the region, the Trinamool rank and file, including chief minister Mamata Banerjee, had repeatedly asked the migrant workers to come home and vote.

“Those working in other states should come and vote. Or else, your name might be struck off the electoral roll in the pretext of the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) and the NRC,” Mamata had said at public meetings in these districts.

Political observers said Malda and Murshidabad have a minority population of around 50 per cent and 70 per cent, respectively, which makes the ruling dispensation of Bengal focus on this vote bank.

“The spectre of the CAA and the NRC which Trinamool had presented during its campaign didn’t work. In democracy, everybody should vote. Simultaneously, we can’t ignore the economic reality. It is indeed tough for a migrant worker, serving in a far-flung state, to visit his home thrice in three months,” said Mou Chatterjee, a teacher in political science based in Malda.

In Murshidabad, political parties are yet to assess how many migrant workers turned up to vote. In Malda, a rough estimate made by parties indicated that barely one lakh workers, who serve in neighbouring states, voted on Tuesday.

In total, there are around 64 lakh voters in these two seats.

Ashok Das, the vice-president of Trinamool’s Murshidabad district committee, admitted that fewer migrant workers voted this time.

“It is true that most of them stayed back at their workplaces as they will come home next month. We got the reports at the last moment and thus didn’t have time to organise them and bring them here to vote,” said Das.

Subhadeep Sanyal, the Malda district INTTUC president, on the other hand, blamed the protracted poll season conceived by the Election Commission of India.

“It is impractical to expect that a migrant worker, especially one who is from
the minority community, would be able to come home thrice in three months
because of religious events and elections. As far as we know, only a few of them have come to vote. It is because of the long election schedule drawn by the Election Commission that they couldn’t vote,” said Sanyal.

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