In Gujarat, families eke out living during elections

The average voter in India gets to be a part of the election process once in five years. Many do not even look forward to the phenomenon, but for a few families in Ahmedabad, the elections are the means to their livelihood for generations, helping them realise cherished dreams. 

While they stitch flags or cut out scarves, these families are not even aware of which party the ceiling fan, the elephant or the cycle represents. However, their link with the Indian elections is a strong one. Living in one-room houses for years together, they go about their business with quiet dedication. Till recently, they depended on traditional scissors and sewing machines, but electricity has enabled mechanical cutting of party flags. 

“Our work began around four months ago. We get printed cloth of various party symbols and that has to be cut out either in the form of flags, scarves or banners,” said Sufian Khan, who has been busy creating party banners. 

These people are given targets by the printers and orders have to be completed within a day. Sufian said she grew up seeing her grandparents and her parents doing this work. “But those days, the number of items required by parties was not that huge. Moreover, there weren’t so many political parties either,” said her brother Riaz, who assists her by maintaining a log of orders. 

Riaz, who is an autorickshaw driver, said he stays off roads in the afternoon during these four months so that he can help his family with their business, which fetches him more money. Families from as many as 16 households earn in thousands during this time. “We do not even know what is written on the flags we are cutting,” said Razia Shaikh, pointing out to a YSR Congress flag that has writing in Telugu. Their job is limited to cutting them, and the order of 1,000 flags and 1,000 scarves has to be out before the weekend.

So, while party leaders slug it out in the heat and dust and their supporters wave party flags or scarves, little do they know that all the paraphernalia they have used will help some families in Ahmedabad renovate their homes or buy bigger TV sets at the end of the election season.

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