India rolls out the red carpet for 100-year-old voter

Indian voter Shyam Saran Negi, center, 100, arrives to vote in the northern Himachal Pradesh state elections in Kalpa, around 145 miles from the state capital Shimla, on November 9, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 09 November 2017
0

India rolls out the red carpet for 100-year-old voter

SHIMLA: Authorities in a remote Himalayan village in northern India rolled out the red carpet Thursday for a 100-year-old man who has voted in every election since independence to cast his ballot.
Retired school teacher Shyam Saran Negi was given a special escort to the polling booth in Himachal Pradesh state to retain his record of voting in every Indian election since 1947.
“I have voted 29 times since the first general election in 1951,” Negi told journalists in Kalpa in Himachal Pradesh, which is holding state elections, after walking up a specially laid red carpet to cast his ballot.
Negi has now voted in 16 parliamentary and 13 state elections, often braving heavy snow to reach his local polling station.
Shyam’s son C.P Negi told AFP his father now usually stayed home by the fireplace, but was still very enthusiastic about elections.
“He keeps himself informed through radio and is a particularly keen follower of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s monthly radio show,” the son added, without saying who his father had voted for.
Shyam urged voters at his polling booth to exercise their constitutional right and “elect good people who form a pro-people government.”


Rickshaw pullers fade from India’s streets

Updated 27 April 2018
0

Rickshaw pullers fade from India’s streets

KOLKATA: Mohammad Maqbool Ansari puffs and sweats as he pulls his rickshaw through Kolkata’s teeming streets, a veteran of a gruelling trade long outlawed in most parts of the world and slowly fading from India too.
Kolkata is one of the last places on earth where pulled rickshaws still feature in daily life, but Ansari is among a dying breed still eking a living from this back-breaking labor.
The 62-year-old has been pulling rickshaws for nearly four decades, hauling cargo and passengers by hand in drenching monsoon rains and stifling heat that envelops India’s heaving eastern metropolis.
Their numbers are declining as pulled rickshaws are relegated to history, usurped by tuk tuks, Kolkata’s signature yellow taxis and modern conveniences like Uber.
Ansari cannot imagine life for Kolkata’s thousands of rickshaw-wallahs if the job ceased to exist.
“If we don’t do it, how will we survive? We can’t read or write. We can’t do any other work. Once you start, that’s it. This is our life,” he tells AFP.
Sweating profusely on a searing hot day, his singlet soaked and face dripping, Ansari skilfully weaves his rickshaw through crowded markets and bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Wearing simple shoes and a chequered sarong, the only real giveaway of his age is his long beard, snow white and frizzy, and a face weathered from a lifetime plying this disappearing trade.
Twenty minutes later, he stops, wiping his face on a rag. The passenger offers him a glass of water — a rare blessing — and hands a note over.
“When it’s hot, for a trip that costs 50 rupees ($0.75) I’ll ask for an extra 10 rupees. Some will give, some don’t,” he said.
“But I’m happy with being a rickshaw puller. I’m able to feed myself and my family.”