: When Kolkata goes to polls on May 19, a bunch of 54 people from Calcutta Pavlov Hospital are set to create history. For the first time in Kolkata, inmates of a hospital for mental disorders have been allowed to cast their vote.
Thirty-two male and 22 female patients will cast their vote in the seventh phase of the Lok Sabha elections in Bamon Para Bazar community hall in Beniapukur. Most of the voters are excited at the prospect of getting that strip of indelible ink on their fingers. Mousumi Ghosh — who, at 28, will be a first-time voter — is thrilled at the idea, but she is also jittery about whom she will vote for.
The process of allowing the group from Pavlov to cast their votes began last year, with members of Anjali — an organisation that works for the rights of patients with mental disorders — approaching the Election Commission. It was through the efforts made by Anjali, the hospital administration and Swasthya Bhavan (the state health department) that a set of electoral photo identity cards were issued for the patients who were deemed fit to vote.
A few weeks ago, EC representatives conducted a workshop for the voters to familiarise them with the EVMs and the VVPAT machines. On Friday, Anjali volunteers conducted a much-in-demand session — about party symbols, candidates and a lastminute brush-up on the EVM.
“We have been deprived of our democratic rights all these years. I am extremely excited that I would be treated as equal on election day,” said 47-year-old Mousmi Mukherjee, who does not remember how she landed up in the Kolkata from Mumbai several years ago.
But confusion still prevails. “Is this an assembly or parliamentary election?” asked Ananya Basu, a former schoolteacher from Howrah, who has been in Pavlov for more than two years. “I think the Trinamool Congress has been doing a good job,” she added, tentatively.
But the rest of them seemed divided between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief minister Mamata Banerjee, and several have been unable to tear themselves away from the high-pitched campaign battle between BJP and TMC on television