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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Dec 2014

Altitude test for democracy at India’s highest polling booth in Ladakh

Peerzada Ashiq, Hindustan Times  Srinagar, May 05, 2014
First Published: 19:59 IST(5/5/2014) | Last Updated: 01:51 IST(6/5/2014)

Come Wednesday, 57 voters are expected to turn up at Anlaythu, India’s highest polling booth in Ladakh. At an altitude of 15,000 ft, the booth is barely 50m from the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that demarcates areas held by China.

It took the district administration 10 chopper sorties since Sunday to airdrop the voting machinery and 20 polling personnel who had undergone acclimatisation and training to fight altitude sickness. “The place has a motorable road,” Leh deputy commissioner Simranjit Singh told HT.

Anyalthu, though, was not as tough as Nyraks to reach. Nestled deep inside the rugged Himalayan range of Ladakh, Nyraks is at 10,000 ft. In some remote areas such as Hunker, Markha and Rumbag, polling staff have already begun trekking to be on time for the May 7 voting.

“Among these inaccessible areas, Lingsshet has the most voters (400) while the others have an average 60 voters,” Singh said.

He added that the polling station at Dumchuk – it has 80 voters – is so close to the LAC that Chinese “well get to see live Indian democratic process”.

The border voters make up 1,000 of Ladakh constituency’s 159,949 voters. The constituency is polarised between the Muslim-dominated Kargil area and the Buddhist-majority Leh.

The main demand for locals is all-weather connectivity to the world beyond; Ladakh remains cut off for six months from the Kashmir Valley. The region also seeks reopening of all tradition silk routes for trade with neighbouring countries.

Residents of Kargil often do not agree with their Leh counterparts, but they are united on the issue of granting Union Territory status for Ladakh.


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