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Page last updated at 14:01 GMT, Thursday, 30 April 2009 15:01 UK

Voter apathy hits terror-torn Mumbai

By Prachi Pinglay
BBC News, Mumbai

Polling in Mumbai
Last year's bombing does not appear to have galvanised the electorate

For Sulochana Mhapdi, a domestic helper in her 50s who works in an up-market area of western Mumbai and is one of the many who dwell in the city's slums, this election is no different from the previous one.

The city may have suffered a terror attack last November that killed nearly 170 people but for Sulochana and her friends living in the Pali Hill area, permanent accommodation and water supply are far bigger priorities.

The attacks have only really exercised the middle class urban elites as an election issue.

So, despite an intensive campaign by several citizens' groups, Mumbai (Bombay) had only recorded a turnout of about 30% by mid-afternoon.

'Better technology'

Development has been the major issue in most parts of the city and its outskirts - except for south Mumbai, which witnessed last year's terror attacks and where security is paramount.

Sunita Dhondu Khambal
We want better education and employment for our children so that we may be able to afford a better standard of living
Sunita Dhondu Khambal

Sunita Dhondu Khambal, who lives in Pali Hill, insists a decent water supply for her colony is what matters.

"I have been living here for more than 20 years. We have been fighting to get water. Mostly we work as maids in other people's houses and have no time to go and get water from nearby connections in the morning," she says.

"Our living conditions are bad anyway. We want better education and employment for our children so that we may be able to afford a better standard of living."

One polling booth at a school in the affluent area of south Mumbai saw relatively few voters.

Last year's terror attack was touted to be the most important poll issue for this constituency and, for those who did turn out like first time voters, Sajia Sheikh, 24, and Nazia Sheikh, 20, it was a key factor.

"I want the new government to use better technology for security. The weapons and the security systems we have are not modern and we should improve on that front," Sajia said.

Kesho Ram Chadda, 83, a resident of south Mumbai for many decades, said that development and security were both concerns.

"The attackers came into the city using the sea route. Even now when we take a walk by the sea we do not think security is adequate. There is always a hazard."

However, he stressed that it was also important for politicians to focus on poor people.

"Poor people in my own area do not have access to medical facilities or sufficient food. Something must be done for them," Mr Chadda said.

'Stable government'

Thursday's polling means that voting in all 48 seats from the western Indian state of Maharashtra is now complete.

Voters in Mumbai
Many voters said that development was as important as security

Mumbai voted for six parliamentary seats on Thursday, the adjoining Thane district for four.

Neelam Sodhi, a housewife, complained about not getting voter registration for her husband and daughter.

She said her family wanted to vote but only she had the correct identification to do so.

For her, too, a combination of stable government and better security were factors in choosing her representative.

"When we moved to Mumbai three years ago, there was no fear psychosis. After 26/11 we were shaken and we would really like to have a stable government which provides security to its people," she said.

Yet the relatively low turnout all over Mumbai suggests that many other people do not believe the issue important enough to get them to the polls.

That was even though several celebrities urged citizens to do so.



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