India elections: Millions of women and rough sleepers BLOCKED from voting

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Narendra Modi is hoping to secure another term as Prime Minister of India, as voters prepare to take to the polls next month on April 11. His latest campaign follows a period of heightened tensions between India and neighbouring rival Pakistan, in which Indian pilot Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was shot down in Pakistani territory and briefly detained. The Prime Minister was commended for his handling of the event and has recently attracted a surge in positive attention as the elections approach. However, not everyone will be able to vote, as certain voter groups have been barred from the polls.

Millions of women and homeless people will be unable to vote in the Indian elections this year, due to difficulties in securing identification papers.

Human rights groups issued the warning today, saying these demographics are already at-risk in India and now could be even more marginalised.

All Indian citizens over the age of 18 are eligible to vote in the elections, some 900 million people in total.

Rough sleepers numbering at roughly 4 million according to human rights organisations may be denied the vote, despite efforts by New Delhi officials to include them.

This residency issue has become so pronounced, the Delhi Election Commission has decided to allow temporary adresses in areas homeless people tend to inhabit.

Under the Commission, homeless people can apply with an address at a night shelter, flyovers and even street lights.

This was effective for 10,000 rough sleepers during the 2014 election cycle, but only 3,000 more people have signed up since then.

According to Ashok Pandey of advocacy group Shahari Adhikar Manch, this arrangement can be difficult for homeless people as they tend to relocate often.

He said: “If they are not at the given address when they do the verification, their name is cancelled.

“That’s a problem because they keep moving.

“It really should not matter that they are homeless – they are still citizens and have a right to vote.”

Women are also poorly represented as voters during national elections, but mainly due to societal pressure rather than bureaucracy.

Election analysts Prannoy Roy and Dorab Sopariwala said women’s voting habits are heavily controlled and influenced by the people around them.

Indian women are often told who to vote for or barred from voting altogether, despite being perfectly eligible to cast their vote in the polls.

Up to 21 million women may not be present on voter lists, the effect of decades of non-registration.

Prannoy Roy and Dorab Sopariwala wrote in Indian election book ‘The Verdict’, this combination of social and political pressure are simply getting worse as the years go on.

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