The rise of the ‘Others’


By bappaditya paul
West Bengal has registered a 58.82 per cent increase in the number of eunuch voters in the past three years. In voters’ list, eunuchs are identified as “others” and they are a category distinct from the transgender. EunuchsAccording to figures availed from the office of the state Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), it was in 2012 when eunuchs were first enrolled as “others” in the state’s electoral roll. That year, the number of eunuch voters stood at 323. In 2013, the number rose to 402, registering an increase of 24.45 per cent.

In this year’s voters’ list, the figure has now touched 513, which is a rise of 27.61 per cent over the 2013 figure.

“If we compare this year’s figure with that of 2012, the percentage rise in the number of eunuch voters in West Bengal has gone up by 58.82 per cent. Yet a vast majority of eunuchs in the state still either do not feature in the electoral roll or are enrolled in the male/female category as had been the practice earlier,” said a senior official in the state CEO’s office. Eunuch votersThe officer said that while the already registered 513 “others” voters will be able to exercise their franchise this Lok Sabha polls, new names could be enrolled in the electoral roll in the continuous update process of the roll after the polls.

It was in 2009 that the Election Commission, at the initiative of the then Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Mr Navin Chawla, had first recognised eunuchs as a distinct category electors and started including their names in voters’ list as “others”.

Mr Chawla had taken the initiative after some students at the KIIT Law School in Bhubaneshwar had flagged the issue during a lecture by the CEC. A student at the Asian College of Journalism in Chennai again raised the issue at close succession.

Mr Navin Chawla, former CEC of India.
Mr Navin Chawla, former CEC of India.

Following this, since no statuary amendment was needed, Mr Chawla presided over a full Election Commission bench, which gave a go ahead to include eunuchs as “others” category voters in electoral roll.
Even as the decision was taken in 2009, it took a few more years for the states to implement the change.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 19 April 2014 under a different headline.)


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