A story of working class couple for whom elections meant literally nothing

"We have to work for a square meal a day. If we don't work, we'll have nothing to eat. We get sound sleep only when we have a decent meal."

NL Today

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: Voting for federal parliament and provincial assemblies has just concluded across the country. 

However, Gorakh Bahadur Karki of Thakurdwara-9, Bardia district, is not one of these voters who cast ballots in this election. Instead, he is seen nonchalantly striking a hammer against a rotating cement-mixer, near Singha Durbar, the central government secretariat here in Kathmandu on voting day. Nearby, Karki’s spouse is mixing sand and cement into aggregate, helping him. 

It is not that the Karki couple is not aware that today (November 20) is a voting day. Karki and his wife are among the thousands of eligible voters who have missed voting this time for various reasons. This couple has their names in the electoral roll in Bardia district, so they cannot vote here in Kathmandu. The Karki couple also could not afford to go to Bardia for voting since they already are struggling to have two meals a day–a hand-to-mouth existence.

“We have to work for a square meal a day. If we don’t work, we’ll have nothing to eat. We get sound sleep only when we have a decent meal,” said Gorakh. His wife could not agree more with him.

We asked this wage-labor couple working close to the southern gate to Singha Durbar why they didn’t go to vote.

Their reply: “Our names are registered in the voter list back in our village. We could not vote from here. Nobody asked us to go to Bardia to vote. Had someone asked us to vote, we could’ve gone there (to Bardia) to vote.” 

The Karki couple has been working at this construction site since the last six months. Their daily earning is around Rs 1,800 to 2,000.

“After bringing them up, our kids are now living separately and we, the old couple, are left toiling for a living,” said Karki with a sigh of frustration.

It is not that he did not want to vote in this election, but for the obtaining circumstance. 

The story of Verma Dhami from Kedarsyun rural municipality in Bajhang is similar to those unable to cast ballots under the periodic election. She was seen on the street of Ramshah Path with a loaded bag. She aspired to be in her hometown today for the voting, but it could not materialize due to her personal causes, according to her.  

She is a student and living in the central capital. She was back to Kathmandu from her home recently. The economic issue is one of the causes that discouraged her from visiting Bajhang for the elections. 

Dhami hoped to find someone else who would support her and help her make a trip home for the voting, but she could not find anyone. 

She is residing at her relative’s place in Putalisadak and was found walking up to Tikathali of Lalitpur for some emergency affairs.

The movement of public vehicles in the Kathmandu Valley was restricted today in view of the sensitivity of the voting. 

Sangita Thapa and Sharada Thapa from Ramechhap were inching the route from Bhadrakali to Anamnagar. The couple utilized the time to visit the Bhadrakali temple on election day today as they could not manage their travel to the hometown for the elections. 

“We did not make a plan to go to our hometown to vote, bearing in mind the possible discomforts together with our child.”

The EC had banned the movement of vehicles in the Kathmandu Valley from 4:00 am to 7:00 pm today for security purposes.  However, vehicles owned by the media and Nepal Electricity Authority and those meant for drinking water supplies, ambulances and fire engines have been allowed to operate. 

The EC updates that the number of voters across the country is 17,988,070 and this figure excludes people like the Karki couple who have their names registered in the EC for voting, but could not exercise it due to personal reasons including the economic one. 

EC Assistant Spokesperson Surya Prasad Aryal said though the Voter Roll Act has identified the Civil Service employees, security persons, inmates and detainees and old age citizens residing in the registered old age home as ‘temporary’ voters, the general people from other sections of life have remained unrecognized by the Act as voters who could cast their ballots under Proportional Representation system.  

The international practice is that any person eligible for the voting can cast a ballot from the area where the person is staying continuously from three to six months. But the provision is missing in Nepal and the Election Act should be revised to adjust this provision in the domestic election procedures, Aryal added.

Ramesh Lamsal and CB Adhikari/RSS