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Only 25 per cent of Mumbai women are regular voters: Study

To improve voter turnouts in the coming elections, the state election commission is now considering ways to increase women’s participation in elections.

Written by Arita Sarkar | Mumbai |
January 26, 2017 2:42:37 am
mumbai, survey, women voters survey, female voters, female voters survey, Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, bombay civic polls, BMC elections, BMC polls, BMC polls 2017, maharashtra civic polls, mumbai news, indian express news The survey found 75 per cent women generally do not vote (Source: Express Archive)

A recent survey by Pune-based Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics has found that 75 per cent of women in Mumbai don’t vote regularly. This means while a percentage of these women have been eligible voters, they tend to skip some polls. Fifty per cent of seats in Maharashtra’s municipalities are reserved for women candidates. And the Shiv Sena, which has controlled Mumbai’s municipality for nearly two decades now, has among the most active women political workers — both elected members and grassroot workers. To find three quarters of women voters not voting regularly was thus surprising.

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To tackle the issue, amid the general push to improve voter turnouts in the coming elections, the state election commission is now considering targeted suggestions made by the Gokhale Institute to increase women’s participation in elections. These measures include putting up banners spreading awareness about voting in places frequented by women, including grocery stores, department stores, and changing rooms of these stores.

The survey, concluded on January 15, was conducted on 3000 respondents from seven electoral wards that witnessed the lowest voter turnout in the 2012 municipal elections. Manasi Phadke, project coordinator at the Gokhale Institute, stated that the findings of the survey indicated that while 30 per cent of the enrolled voters cast votes regularly, 30 per cent never voted, and around 40 per cent voted intermittently.

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Women voters specifically score lower on consistency of voting at every election. Phadke emphasised the importance of targeting the 40 per cent voters who vote once in a while, as many of these are people who are educated and capable of making informed choices. “There is a huge gender bias in Mumbai as well, and a significant portion of this group are women voters between the ages of 18 and 35 years,” she said.

The Gokhale Institute has communicated various suggestions to the State Election Commission and the election department of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. These include advertising in relevant areas where women are likely to visit in large numbers. “Posters and banners can be put up in women’s changing rooms, in grocery stores like Big Bazaar. Many of these women in the 18-35 years age group would have small children. The BMC can get in touch with the 2,000-odd schools in the city, and a week before the polling day, teachers can make children write ‘please vote for my future’ in the diary which has to be signed by the parents,” she said.

Phadke also pointed out that people particularly tend to take services offered by the BMC for granted and many women said they didn’t want to vote since the candidates were not good enough. “Apart from spreading awareness about voting, political parties should also make the effort of putting up better, educated candidates so that people are more inclined to vote,” she said.

Anandini Thakoor, member of the Khar Residents Association, stated that voting needs to be incentivised for women, especially homemakers. “Women are generally involved with their housework or their jobs and don’t like breaking their daily routine. They don’t care much about BMC elections either. However, I feel if transportation was arranged for them and students could be roped in to visit individual homes to convince people to vote, the numbers can improve,” she said.

Reiterating the general apathy for civic elections in urban areas across all genders, Indrani Malkani, trustee of V CAN, involved in voter awareness campaigns, said, “More than the Vidhan Sabha elections, the local body elections affect our daily lives. Women run the homes and are directly affected by all aspects of the services provided by the BMC and we will try to spread this message. It is thus crucial for homemakers to vote in the BMC elections and be a part of the process,” she said.

The findings of the survey also reported that around 23 per cent of the enrolled voters between the age group of 18-35 years are regular voters while 38 per cent rarely vote. Around 65 per cent of men don’t vote regularly. The survey focused on areas of low voter turnout including Mumbadevi, Union Park in Bandra, Collectors Colony in Malad, Swami Samarth Nagar in Andheri, Borivli CTS, Anushakti Nagar and the transit camp at Dharavi.

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