Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mumbai maids' chutti, voting and low voter turn-out

Lately, inclined towards self-pampering I decided to have a maid for cleaning the house, one to wash the vessels, and another to make chappatis. Suddenly, all three, as if preplanned, decided to go their village. The driver too. I wondered what was special about this time.

I realised that they had waited for the election to get over and had booked their train tickets accordingly. That is why it seemed as if all had taken off together. I was rather amazed at how much voting meant to them.

On the other, you will see that the upper class (barring a rare Amir Khan who broke journey to be in Mumbai to vote) had happily planned their holidays during that weekend. Even the ones who did not go out of town or abroad, chose that weekend to jet off, since it was a long weekend.

It is surprising to note several things about Indian voting patterns:
* That the upper class is pretty indifferent to the process. They know that they get what they want through other means. I believe part of the high corruption in our country is to do with this attitude. It is not the vote that gets them what they want, but that they can pay to get it.. Though at some point, which they possibly don't quite realise it, they have painted themselves into a corner. Because a rich industrialist may get some key things twisted to get his business some benefit. But the overall rot -- bad roads, the terrible traffic, the horrible facilities are a direct result of the fact that you did not vote.
* In developed countries, the pattern of voting is apparently different. The upper class is very conscious of voting. Poll anlysers say that may explain why the rich are pampered there, in terms of what they get from their elected representative. In India, even though this will invite the wrath of `socialists', the poor often manage to get away with a lot of things within the urban set up, whether it is encroachments, or illegal water supply or electricity etc because they vote. Which may explain why in certain parts of this city it is simply impossible to dislodge encroachers -- they are the ones who matter.
* Interestingly, a lot of middle class women simply do not vote. It is rather strange. They seem pretty dead to their rights that way...Why, you wonder? Is it because they are not politically savvy? Then, you cannot wonder women's rights does not figure much in anybody's agenda. Middle class women are not a consituency anywhere.
Voting is where we can change certain things...

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