‘Nari Shakti’ was on display in the all-women staffed booths in Delhi on Sunday which drew more women voters, especially from the Muslim community, officials said. In a first for the city, as many as 17 all-woman staffed booths have been established for the Lok Sabha elections in the seven constituencies of Delhi, where from presiding officers to ground staff, all are women.
Incidentally, four of the seven district election officer-cum-returning officer are also women, and they too felt quite enthused to see the impact of the initiative.
Chandni Chowk Returning Officer Tanvi Garg said the Delhi CEO Office had envisioned this with a larger aim of engendering a sense of women empowerment and the “message has been sent”.
“We have set up two such booths, one each Matia Mahal and Model Town Assembly segments. All our polling staff have worked very hard, and these women staffed here they are also quite happy to be part of an all-woman team. While women voters were pleased, male voters were also pleasantly surprised,” Garg told PTI.
Out of the 17 booths, 10 have been set up in East Delhi constituency, two in Chandni Chowk and one each in rest of the constituencies — North East Delhi, West Delhi, South Delhi, New Delhi and North West Delhi.
North East Delhi Returning Officer Shashi Kaushal said the initiative was “very successful” and would “definitely contribute” to push voting percentage of women in this election.
“We have set up a pink booth in Zeenat School in an area which is a very Muslim-dominated one. And, in the morning a large number of ‘pardanasheen’ (in veil) women came to vote. It was so enthusing to see the women in ‘burqa’ queuing up to exercise their franchise and celebrating the democratic exercise,” she told PTI.
The women voters were also welcomed with a flower each, she said, adding that girl volunteers were also part of the team.
But, more than individual empowerment, it is the large social message of “nari shakti” that has been conveyed to the society, and “aptly showcased”.
Besides Garg and Kaushal, ROs of New Delhi (Pooja Joshi) an South Delhi (Needhi Shrivastav) are also women.
They both said that during the training process, they would see a lot of women polling staff and it was a nice coincidence that four of the seven ROs were women.
Voting is underway in all seven constituencies of Delhi to decide the fate of 164 candidates, of which 18 are women.
A total of 13,816 polling stations have been established at 2,700 locations in Delhi, with a model polling station in each of the 70 assembly constituencies.
There are over 1.43 crore voters on Delhi’s electoral roll. Out of the total electorate size of 1,43,16,453, as many as 78,73,022 are male and 64,43,431 female, while 669 belong to third gender.
Such booths are aimed at empowering women and increasing their participation in the electoral process, officials said.
However, some women voters said they were not fully aware of such a facility.
“It’s is good to have an all-woman polling station, but what’s the use of it when one doesn’t know what is it for,” said Ritu Bahl, 46, a resident of Janakpuri.
One polling booth (in north-east district) is completely staffed by persons with disabilities, while the Leprosy Home Complex at Tahirpur in north-east district has a booth for persons with disabilities only, Kaushal said.
A pink booth has been set up by poll authorities at a school in Janakpuri which falls under the West Delhi constituency.
Devinder Anand, 43, said the words ‘women empowerment’ came to her mind when she first read about all-woman booths in newspapers, but she didn’t know the polling booth she visited was such a facility.
Presiding officer, Manju, 50, said the responsibility of creating awareness about all-woman booths lie with the Election Commission and the media.
“We have done our best to highlight it. This is the first time such booths have been set up in Delhi. More people will become aware of such facilities with time,” she said.
Sita, 23, a B.Ed. student, and resident of Nizamuddin East, said, “I voted with the issue of improvement in education sector on my mind. Education can bring about all-round changes in the lives of people.”