At the Mahila Mandal and Semi English School, just near Kurla station which leads into Assembly Constituency 174, teachers are busy with election duties rather than teaching. This is a similar story in all the government schools in the area
Said the headmaster, Ashok, “Four classrooms have been allotted as polling booths, and this happens during every election. We have 18 teachers in this school. They often don’t get a chance to vote because they are busy with election duties. Because of this, almost two crore votes are simply wasted.”
Another employee, Rinku Vishwakarma, who is part of security at the school, has been a silent spectator of the campaigning and the happenings around. “We do not put up any banners or give out flyers at the Centre, so as to avoid influencing people towards a particular party.” She herself has experienced political candidates visiting her home during the polling season.
Adjacent to the Kurla Police Station, stood an elderly man, patiently selling beautiful porcelain teacups. It was a vast contrast from the confusion and hustle on the other side of the street. The heat and noisy traffic didn’t seem to affect him. He was smiling and conversing with the young man selling flowers beside him.
However, when we asked for his opinions on the upcoming elections, his shoulders visibly stiffened and he became very cautious. Then, in an aggressive tone, he said, “Voting makes no sense. Politicians come here with promises and then vanish in less than a year. I have been observing these netas ever since Nehruji walked around with a rose on his chest.”
“So, don’t you vote?”
“I have learnt one thing. Work hard, earn and let politics go to hell. Politicians do things only for their own advantage and not for the public. They’re all relaxing on their comfortable chairs and I’m sitting here, selling cups on the road,” he said, clearly irritated.
He then added, “If you have taken any pictures of me, make sure you print them out and offer dua,” Then, without another word, he walked away to continue his interrupted conversation with the young florist.
Then at the Kurla market, where thousands jostle for space to buy and sell, an old man was selling clothing. How do the elections affect him, we asked. He shrugged his shoulders. He had not received his voting card since the last few years. “My name is not on the list. Neither is my brother’s. The last time I voted was in 2014. We have been removed from the system is the case with my brother. We have been removed from the system. How then does this affect us?” he said. Much earlier, he was a regular voter in his village. However, this is no more the case.
Meanwhile, at the Kurla Police Station, we spoke to Inspector Sandeep Punjabrao, to get an official perspective of the elections and the procedures involved. According to him, special teams are formed and then deployed as required. The first team is responsible for preventing corrupt activities by party members, who offer money and liquor to the voters in exchange of votes. The second team is responsible for the safety of polling booths and preventing the breakout of riots or fights at the polling stations.
Written by Journalism students Shruti Vanjare & Krystelle Dsouza
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