Enthusiastic voter turnout along IB

Excelsior Correspondent
SAMBA, Dec 14: Undeterred by repeated cease fire violations by Pakistan on International Border and Line of Control (LoC) that forced them to leave their homes, residents of villages in the border district of Samba came out in large numbers to cast their votes today with a motto to answer bullet with ballot.
There was a lot of enthusiasm among the border residents in the twin Assembly Segments of Samba and Vijaypur which went to polls in the fourth phase today and they came out in large numbers of their houses from early in the morning braving the chilly winter to cast their vote and show the entire world that they wanted to reply bullet through ballot.
“The ballot is our reply to the Pakistani bullet,” Pawan Kumar, a resident of Ramgarh village of Samba district, said.
The voters here who came out in large numbers to vote in today’s fourth phase of the ongoing Assembly election said that their vote was an answer to Pakistan.
“We came out in large numbers to vote and send Pakistan a message that we are not scared of their bullets,” Rajkumar, another resident of Ramgarh village, said.
It may be recalled that the residents of hundred of villages along the International Border on the Indian side are forced to leave their homes and cattle every time the Pakistani side resorts to ceasefire violation and fires on the Indian side.
“We suffer whenever there is ceasefire violation from across the border. We are forced to leave our house and cattle behind to take shelter at the camps set by the authorities,” Mangat Ram, a local resident, said.
“In the past three months, my family had to leave the village several times. We don’t know when a bullet or a mortar bomb being fired by the Pakistani side might just kill us. So whenever there is a ceasefire violation from across the border, we leave everything behind,” he added.
Claiming that they had become “sitting ducks on fire” due to repeated ceasefire violations, the border residents accused successive Governments of ignoring their plight and hoped that the next Government will not only ensure development but also provide safety and security to them.
“We have decided to elect a representative who will help in providing us safety and security,” Prem Singh, a local resident, said.
The residents claim that despite assurances, their demand for a small plot at a safe location has not been fulfilled.
“Every time there is election, politicians come to us and exploit our miseries. For several years, we have been demanding a plot of five marlahs at a safer location where we can build our houses but our demands remain unfulfilled,” Kulwinder Singh, a resident of the Ramgarh village, said.
“The condition of the roads here is so pathetic that it takes hours for us to reach the main road, the situation is worst when it comes to a contingency situation,” he added.
Prem Singh said in the past, several residents who were critically injured in Pakistani firing and shelling lost their lives as it took several hours for them to be transported to the nearby hospitals in Jammu.
“The roads are considered a lifeline in other parts of the country, but for the residents of the border villages these roads are death traps,” he said.
Samba resident Sham Sharma said, “We are now fed up of hollow promises. Nothing on the ground has changed. Our vote is for change for our safety. Our vote is for development of the border area”.
Not only in border areas but in entire district there was lot of enthusiasm among the voters and women and youth at various places were seen in long queues to cast their vote.
Though the polling started at 8am the people were seen in queues from 7-30 am in front of various polling stations. The majority of people in these two constituencies said that they will vote for development and better future. The first time voters who were enthusiastic to cast their vote expressed hope that the new Government will find a solution to their problems like growing unemployment and frame a youth policy to channelise their talent.
One thing which surprised every one in this election is that rural women outnumbered men in casting the vote as at various polling stations long queues of women were witnessed than men.
Lalita Sharma who had come to cast her vote at polling Station Glad in Samba Assembly Segment said that she wanted to exercise her democratic right and vote for a party which fulfills their aspirations.
However the views of some old people including Sham Lal, Bishan Dass, Darshan and Tilak Raj were altogether different from it. The trio who were sitting in front of a polling booth at Glad Samba said that every time Government is promising people to allot land at safer places but where is the land as it has been encroached. They expressed the hope that the new Government will look into it.
Madhusudan Khajuria who had come to cast his vote at a polling Station in Samba town said that he voted for a change and expressed the hope that new Government will amend the employment policy and reduce the retirement age to 58 as this decision has increased unemployment and made the youth idle.

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