Braving many odds, centenarians ensure 100% turnout

Mohinder Verma

Enthusiastic centenarians: 125-year-old Musra Begum casting vote at Lowang, 115-year old Lacho Ram at Bani and 110-year-old Zeba Begum at Lowang on Saturday.
Enthusiastic centenarians: 125-year-old Musra Begum casting vote at Lowang, 115-year old Lacho Ram at Bani and 110-year-old Zeba Begum at Lowang on Saturday.

KATHUA, Dec 20: Despite being in twilight of their lives, they still contributed 100% in this particular field by overcoming the hurdles with clumsy walks and stole the march over thousands of others, who otherwise do not face such barriers.
The desire to lead from the front was clearly reflecting on their otherwise wrinkled faces and making it more visible as to how many times they have registered win over their physical hurdles to play their role in this exercise. Their exemplary contribution has finally put them in the top slot among thousands of other participants of different age groups.
These toppers are centenarians of Kathua district, who ensured 100% turnout during the last phase of Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir braving many bodily odds and also the prevailing cold wave conditions. Thousands of many normal voters may have missed the opportunity to be part of this democratic exercise but not these centenarians, who otherwise have reached the twilight of their lives.
Among these 65 centenarians, 125-year-old Musra Begum is on the top of the list as she braving intense cold wave due to snowfall came out to cast her vote at Lowang Polling Station in Bani area of the district. This is the rare case as not only this centenarian but five generations of her family also exercised their franchise in this polling station. The great grand children of this family also voted so did their parents and great grandparents.
Among these 65 centenarians, maximum of 34 exercised votes in Bani constituency, nine in Billawar, eight each in Hiranagar and Basohli and six in Kathua Assembly segment. Among these voters are 115 year old Lacho Ram and Zeba Begum, who too exercised franchise in Bani, 102-year-old Kadu Ram at Marheen Polling Station, 101-year-old Jameetu Begum at Basohli and 103-year-old Neelam Devi in Hiranagar.
Similarly, all the 119 voters aged between 90 to 99 years cast their votes at various polling stations in the district thereby exhibiting that their enthusiasm for participation in electoral battle was still at its peak although their lives are shrinking with every passing year.
Among these 119 voters, 54 exercised franchise in Bani, 19 in Kathua, 22 in Billawar, 10 in Hiranagar and 14 in Basohli Assembly segments.
Kathua district administration particularly the District Election Officer (DEO), Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary too played vital role in helping these centenarians and voters between 90 to 99 years of age in participation in electoral exercise as each one of them was identified by carrying out special exercise. Moreover, each one of them was assisted by one nodal officer deputed by the DEO to ensure their 100% participation.
Not only centenarians even physically challenged voters too surpassed normal voters as they too ensured 100 per cent participation. All the 4243 specially abled voters turned out to play their role in electing their new representatives. Their disabilities failed to deter them from steeling march over normal voters in the district.
To facilitate these voters, the district administration had deployed 75 wheel chairs at the polling stations and 12 dedicated Specially Abled Voter Assistance Vans. Even Special Voter Assistant Booth was established at every centre for the convenience of this category of voters.
Among these 4243 voters, 211 exercised franchise in Bani, 1078 in Basohli, 1619 in Kathua, 614 in Billawar and 712 in Hiranagar Assembly segment. These voters were facilitated at a total of 512 polling stations out of 645 polling stations. Earlier, 624 Polling Booth Area Teams had carried door-to-door survey to identify such voters.
In the district, a total of 142 model polling stations were established by the DEO. These stations were having 16 different types of facilities for the voters and these polling stations recorded 88% turnout against 64% in the Lok Sabha elections and 59% in the last Assembly elections.

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