WP refugees, Bakerwals show lot of enthusiasm in DDC polls

A long queue of voters in front of a polling booth in Swankha DDC constituency on Monday. -Excelsior/Badyal
A long queue of voters in front of a polling booth in Swankha DDC constituency on Monday. -Excelsior/Badyal

Polling delayed in Nonath booth

Avtar Bhat
KATHUA/SAMBA, Dec 7: With the District Development Council (DDC) elections being held for the first time in the history of J&K since independence, it generated a hope for development of rural belt of the Union Territory with the result a lot of enthusiasm was witnessed among the voters who were seen in long queues in front of polling booths in Ding Amb constituency of Kathua district and twin DDC constituencies of Ghagwal and border belt of Ramgarh in Samba district which went to elections in fourth phase of polling today.

As the polling started as usual at 7 am, the rush was considerably low in the morning hours up to 10 am and it soon picked up and large number of voters including men and women were seen flocking into their respective polling booths to cast their vote and participate in the democratic process for local governance. While there was eagerness and zest among the all voters, however, West Pak refugees and members of Bakerwal community in some pockets of Ding Amb constituency were seen more jubilant and enthusiastic in casting their vote in the local elections of self governance.
The joy of 100 West Pak electorates who had come to cast their vote at Polling Booth of Fourlane Panchayat in Ding Amb constituency of Kathua district knew no bounds as they considered it a day of liberation for themselves showering all praises on the Government of time who gave them this democratic right and opportunity.
Jaswant Singh, an old voter said that though India was liberated over 70 years back but it was a real liberation day for West Pak refugees as for the first time this hapless community got the right to vote in local elections for which they were craving for decades together. “My joy really knows no bounds as it is an occasion of liberation as well as celebration for us,” he said, adding “till date we were as second class citizens having no citizenship rights, the right to take part in local or Assembly elections. But the Government of time took a historical decision by giving us the equal rights at par with other citizens of J&K”.
Supporting him, another West Pak refugee, Shamo Devi who was also standing in the queue at the same polling booth, said “We were waiting for the day to come. But at last God send an angel to relieve us from all worries and optimism has generated in the refugee community that they can also take part in democratic process of the J&K and the steps will be taken for the development of their Bastis which were ignored till date.”
Same eagerness was seen among the members of Bakerwal community who too in large numbers had come to cast their vote at Fourlane Polling Station East -A of Ding Amb constituency. Hashim Din Khatana, a Bakerwal said though they voted in every Assembly and Lok Sabha elections but their Bastis were ignored in development due to non existence of BDCs and DDCs in the J&K.
“This election is held for the first time and we hope after the constitution of DDCs the development will take place in Bakerwal Bastis where the people face problems of education of their children, lack of drinking water facilities, etc”, he said, adding the main cause of lack of development in their areas was non constitution of BDCs and DDCs but now a bold step was taken by the Government and members of Schedule Tribe Community hope that they will get their share in DDC plan.
Highly praising the decision of Government to hold the BDC and DDC elections for the first time in J&K, octogenarian Hurmat Singh, an ex-Sarpanch said it is hoped that the villages which were neglected in development for seven decades will get their due share now. He said “Earlier plans were framed by bureaucracy and people were not taken into confidence. Some times plans were executed and some times not besides there was also lot of corruption and ‘Banderbant’ which with the entry of public representatives in BDCs and DDCs will end as they will be accountable and answerable to people”, he added.
He said there will be 14 DDC members and DC’s role will be as Secretary and now the rural areas will get their due share.
There was so enthusiasm among the voters to cast their vote that at various polling booths people waited in queues. They waited for an hour in Ding Amb constituency after voting was officially over to cast their vote as they had entered the polling booth before 2 pm.
The enthusiasm and eagerness was also witnessed among the voters in twin constituencies of Ghagwal and Ramgarh in Samba district today. However, the voters at Polling Booth in Middle School Nonath in Ghagwal constituency showed their resentment over the failure of the authorities to open two polling booths as has been a precedence earlier. There were 750 voters at this particular polling booth where voting for both Sarpanch post and DDC elections were held. This resulted in lot of delay in polling and a candidate had to wait for long in casting his vote due to official mismanagement.
The voters even took up the issue and showed their resentment before the Election Observer, Ashwani Khajuria and SDM Ghagwal, Ramkesh Sharma but they too showed their inability to set the system right. Many voters left the polling booth without casting their vote. Out of 750 total votes, only 551 people could exercise their right to franchise. The BJP candidate Suresh Kumar Falli also expressed his resentment over the lack of arrangements and establishing of only one polling booth at Nonath as the polling instead of 2 pm was closed at 5 pm.
Even some voters alleged non observance of SOPs and social distancing on the polling booth and no proper sanitization and thermo checking was done. Even no attention was paid to maintenance of social distancing. The polling in other polling booths of the constituency and border belt of Ramgarh constituency concluded smoothly.
When contacted, SDM Ghagwal Ramkesh Sharma said that it was decided by the Rural Development Department to set up only one polling booth and all the voters were allowed to cast their vote who entered the Polling Station before 2 pm. He said there is a precedence of having one polling booth for over 700 voters. But the authorities ensured every one to cast the vote who entered the Polling Station before 2 pm, he added.