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Friday, April 3, 2009

Voting n tribals

PV Krishna Rao in Indian Express: Tribal’s are perceived to be ‘uncivilized.’ Many ‘educated’ look down upon them with utter disdain, citing their ‘unhygienic’ life in ‘inhospitable’ jungles. If you are one of the so-called ‘educated’ class, think again. For one thing, you are too lazy to enroll yourselves in the electoral rolls. Even if you do have the voter card, you are too lazy to take the trouble to vote, preferring to stay at home (election day is a holiday) and shaking your head at the state-of-affairs.

Listen to Kattula Ramireddy, a resident of Chilakamamidi village in Rampachodavaram Agency area, who is here for the weekly shandy to buy provisions: “We have to walk three km to reach the polling station at Butchiguda. But we don’t mind at all. Why should we miss the opportunity of voting?” He fails to understand why you do not vote! “All the voters in our village set out early in the day and reach the polling station.

We go as a group and cast our votes,” he says. Now, don’t be a cynic and say, they are “following their local neta.” Read on. Reading is a good habit. Have you ever thought, leave alone feel, that you are honored to vote? “We feel a sense of loss if our names are missing in the rolls. We take pride in voting. Many of us believe we are dead if we do not find our names in the electoral rolls,” explains Ramireddy. It’s that important to them.

Another tribal Kattula Suggureddy of Nuripudi village chips in: “The nearest polling station to our village is in Sunnampadu, six km away.” He doesn’t mind walking that extra mile. “That is what we do everyday anyway,” he laughs. Most of the tribal’s have the same problem as the authorities find it difficult to take polling stations closer to their habitations because of logistical problems. How about the aged? The youth take the responsibility of carrying the aged on their shoulders.

It takes time for them to cover the distance. “We carry gruel in cans and stop for a while for lunch somewhere in the jungles,” says Bhumireddy of Gurumamidi village in Y Ramavaram mandal. Aren’t they afraid of the Maoists? You and I stay put at the slightest hint of a protest somewhere on the route. Bhumireddy says, “they give their own explanation for poll boycott. But we believe that since we are living in this country, it is our responsibility to vote.” Do you?
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