KATHUA, Dec 1: While not caring for their old age and braving the threat of COVID pandemic, two nonagenarians and a septuagenarian polled their votes in District Development Council (DDC) elections in Mahanpur and Mandli constituencies of Kathua district today while an enthusiastic bridegroom in Mandli constituency preferred to perform his democratic right first before departing for his ‘barat’ to Kathua.
The people in both these constituencies were enthusiastic to take part in DDC elections as it was for the first time in the J&K’s history that the three tier Panchayati Raj system was being implemented. The people who believed in the democratic traditions of the nation felt elated with the Government decision to transfer the power to grass root level by strengthening the basic institutes of democracy after holding elections to DDCs for the first time in over last seven decades.
90-year-old Shanti Devi came to the Polling Station at village Danu Parole of block Mandli by foot to cast her vote as she did not want to miss the opportunity of electing the DDC member for her area. For her, this election was crucial as it was being held for the first time in her life too. Shanti said that she had cast her vote in every election to elect the public representatives of her choice so she does not want to miss this opportunity today also.
Masu Ram, a 92 year old man also did not want to miss this opportunity and he too came to the Polling Station, Dhar Mahanpur in Kathua district by foot with the support of his children to cast his vote after not caring for his frail and fragile health.
Another 90 year old woman, Tano Devi cast her vote at polling station, Sangerh in Mandli constituency of Kathua district, while a bridegroom on way to his in-laws house for solemnization of marriage ceremony made it a point to cast his vote first. Sahil Bhadwal, a bridegroom who had to take his barat to Kathua when reached near polling station Kohag -B, he alighted from his horse and straightway went to polling station to cast his vote first.
He said that for the first time in J&K the DDC elections are being held and he does not want to miss this historic movement. Sahil said he can’t remain without casting his vote, the Constitutional right given to him.
Mehar Chand Gupta, a 75-year-old man who too came this afternoon to the Polling Booth in Mahanpur to cast his vote said he can miss his meals but not casting his vote, a right given to him by the Constitution of his nation. “We got first time a chance to elect a local representative of DDC so why should I miss this opportunity”, he asked.
Vandana Sharma a first time voter at polling booth Mahanpur 1, said that she is overwhelmed with joy after exercising her right to franchise for the first time and to take part in the democratic process of her country. She said the arrangements at polling stations were good. All precautions were taken by the administration and SOPs were being observed and COVID guidelines followed properly. People used masks at polling booths and they maintained the social distance also.
She said people especially women have come in large numbers to cast their vote which shows they are very much conscious about their democratic rights. The thermal scanning is being done by the officials of Health Department at every polling booth which is good for safety of people, she added.
Vandana however, expressed her dismay over the poor educational infrastructure in the area and expressed the hope that the DDC member would look into this problem and work for sorting out the same.
Neeta Choudhary of Damlad who had also come to cast her vote in Mahanpur said that women in rural belt are backward as more efforts are needed for their empowerment and education. They have no employment and there is still lot of poverty in villages. This needs more attention, she added.
She, however welcomed the Government efforts to strengthening Panchayati RaJ system in J&K saying first Sarpanch and Panch elections were held followed by BDC poll and now DDC elections are being held and it is hoped that these members will work for development of rural areas.
Sohan Lal Gupta, Sarpanch Mahanpur who had also come to cast his vote said it is good that Panchayats will now get powers and 73rd and 74th amendments of the Constituion will be implemented in J&K. However, time will tell how much funds BDCs and DDCs will get from Government and what role they will have in development.
At polling booths, all arrangements in both the constituencies were made by the Government. The elaborate security arrangements were also made to avert any untoward incident. The jawans of BSF, CRPF and local police were manning the polling booths. At three polling booths in Mahanpur women CRPF jawans were specially deployed.
The thermal scanning was being done at entry gates by the medical assistants wearing PP kits. Besides, the sanitization of polling booths was also done and all care for social distancing was taken. Voters were allowed to enter the polling booth one by one to avoid rush in view of COVID Pandemic.
While about 60 percent polling was reported in both the constituencies the rush of voters was slow in the morning hours due to cold climate as polling started at 7am sharp. However, the rush increased after 10 am with people in large numbers turning to cast their vote. At various polling stations, women were outnumbering men in casting their vote as they were seen in long queues.
The polling for both DDC constituencies including 10 Mahanpur and 11 Mandli as well as 5 Sarpnch and six vacant seats of Panchs were completed peacefully in the district.
As per the officials one Panch and one Sarpanch each of Panchayat Halqa of block Mahanpur and Mandli were declared elected unopposed by the concerned Returning Officers.