A new brigade of voters is gearing up for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections as more than 8,000 homeless people, scattered across the national capital, have been issued voter IDs by the Delhi Election Commission.
But the commission has said that its duty does not end with the voter registration, it would also like people to exercise their franchise successfully.
"The number of homeless enrolled as voters has gone up by 1,000-plus. We had registered around 7,000 voters last year during the Assembly polls here. This month till March 22 we have on record more than 8,000 homeless people registered as voters," said Neeraj Bharti, Additional CEO, Election Commission of Delhi.
With the issuance of voter IDs, these homeless have also become beneficiaries of other government schemes which require a proof of identification like getting a gas connection, opening a bank account and getting a driving licence.
"We will vote this time like other countrymen. We have been issued identity cards to vote for the first time. A few officers and people came to us and we were told to fill certain forms. We had to go to the camps to collect our IDs which we have been told will be useful even after the elections are over," said Paan Chand Mishra, 49, who lives in a night shelter in the Kashmiri Gate area.
According to official data, there are more than 60,000 homeless people in the national capital.
However, despite hard efforts by the commission, many homeless will still remain unable to exercise their rights for various reasons.
Mr Bharti said that to handle such a large number of homeless persons across Delhi was not an easy job and several NGOs associated with the commission helped get the data on the ground.
"Many NGOs which are associated with us worked on the ground to get detailed information regarding address, occupation, native place and other details of these people.
Our booth level officers then visited the addresses mentioned in the documents, twice, to confirm the details that the commission had received," Mr Bharti said.
"Some of us have been issued a voter ID, some did not go to get themselves registered. Many of those who live with us were unaware of the facility. One of my relatives got it made in February, but I don't have it," said Kumar, a rickshaw puller.
Officials said they tried to enrol as many voters as they could but one major problem was the temporary addresses of the homeless.
"Because these people have no particular address, we have provided them relaxation by mentioning their temporary address in the voter ID. Many of them live in registered night shelters; for those who do not, we mention a nearby landmark as the address, be it a flyover or a bus stop," Mr Bharti said.
Further applications for enrolment have been put on hold from March 12. Till March 22, the number of such voters who had already applied had reached over 8,000. The applications will once again be accepted after the general elections, Mr Bharti said.