On a hazy Tuesday morning at a homeless shelter, Durga Dayal, 27, showed me his voter identity card with great elation. As I sat looking at his voter card, scores of people flitted in and out of the shelter, inquiring about whether their cards had arrived as well. The excitement was palpable and justified as a new voting bloc has emerged in the national capital before the Delhi state assembly elections on Wednesday. Considered one of the most marginalized communities in the state, around 7,000 of the homeless are expected to make their way to the polling booths for the very first time to cast their votes. “It is a good step as it will help in improving the voting percentage and also to spread awareness about the right to vote in elections,” said Ravinder Kumar Bajaj, an electoral registration officer in charge of Chandni Chowk, a locality in old Delhi. A large number of the homeless have been registered as voters in this assembly constituency.
The registration of these voters has been made possible by years of advocacy efforts by nongovernmental organizations and development agencies. A survey done by the United Nations Development Program in 2010 found that there are close to 56,000 homeless people in the state. However, activists argue that the original number could be at least four times more.
“It took us a lot of years to get them voter cards,” said Indu Prakash Singh, an activist with Indo-Global Social Service Society, which does extensive work with the homeless and runs the shelter where Mr. Dayal sleeps.