Mountains and glaciers no barriers for Tashigang and Bara-Bhangal voters - Hindustan Times
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Mountains and glaciers no barriers for Tashigang and Bara-Bhangal voters

By, , Shimla/dharamshala
Jun 02, 2024 12:14 PM IST

Voters at world's highest polling station in Tashigang and remote Bara-Bhangal post 80% and 85% turnout for Lok Sabha polls despite rough terrain.

Rough terrain was no barrier for voters at the world’s highest and one of Himachal’s remotest polling stations at Tashigang and Bara-Bhangal — which posted 80% and 85% turnout for the Lok Sabha polls.

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Situated at an altitude 15,256 feet above sea level, Tashigang saw its voters fail to keep up their tradition of logging a 100% turnout, but the figure was still high at 80%.

The booth has 62 voters — 37 men and 25 women. Of these, 13 could not participate in the polling, an election official said.

A festival of democracy

The mood in the tribal belt was festive as voters reached the polling station in the forenoon dressed in their traditional attire. “I am overjoyed after casting my vote,” Kunzuk Tenzin, a first-time voter from Tashigang said.

“I appealed to all the voters in the region to reach the polling station at the earliest to participate and partake in the festival of democracy,” Tenzin Nordun, another voter said.

Villagers in Tashigang, which saw 100% voting in the last two elections, were miffed over being terminated as daily wagers with the public works department and had threatened a boycott.

The election department had sent a team of officials to Tashigang to encourage the voters to reconsider their move.

Chief electoral officer Maneesh Garg also flagged off a cycling expedition to Tashigang, led by election icon Jaspreet Pal and his co-cyclists Kshitij Niltu. Duo peddled 630 km in the tough terrain for seven days, passing by Shimla, Theog, Narkanda, Rampur, Jeuri, Bhavanagar, Karcham-Wangtoo, Reckong-Peo, Pooh, Khab, Nako, Sumdo, Kaza and the world’s highest motorable village Kaumik (15,049 ft) Langza and Hikkim.

The booth had also been declared a model polling booth.

Spiti additional deputy commissioner Rahul Jain said there was a lot of enthusiasm about voting across Spiti, adding, “We were hopeful that this time too there will be 100% voting in Tashigang. The local administration had made separate arrangements for taking care of children at the polling station, with toys and candies being brought in.”

A culture of showcase

Lunch arrangements were made for every voter with an array of traditional dishes on offer. Besides, the locals had arranged food for the polling party and security personnel for the last two days.

In another first, the locals organised an exhibition showcasing traditional crafts — traditional carpet-making tools, ploughs and bukhari — with the hopes of drawing more eyeballs in view of the elections.

Tashigang is located 39 km from the Chinese border. The polling station in Tashigang was set up for the first time in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. It overtook Hikkim, positioned at an altitude of about 14,400 ft, as the highest polling station in the country.

Another near miss

Meanwhile, of the total 159 voters in Bara-Bhangal, 136 had cast their votes till 5 pm, as per the details shared by the Kangra administration. Much like Tashinganf, the Bara-Bhangal polling booth recorded 100% voter turnout in 2019.

Located deep into the Himalayas at the height of 8,448 ft, Bara-Bhangal village falls in Baijanth subdivision of Kangra district. The Election Commission had set up an auxiliary booth for the voters in the snowbound village.

Tasked to set up the booth for 159 voters, who had decided to cast their ballot at an auxiliary polling booth set up at Bara-Bhangal, a polling party was airlifted from Yol Cantt, in Dharamshala on Thursday.

Located on the banks of Ravi in the interiors of the Himalayas, the village stays cut-off from the outside world for nearly six months a year and it is solely accessible from May to October once Thamsar Pass is open.

Most residents of the village, which has 469 voters, are nomadic shepherds and migrate to Bir in winter.

The district administration conducts a survey to determine the number of voters who will be in the village (Bara-Bhangal) and those who will be in Bir on the election day.

Given the absence of cellular network coverage in the area, election officials will rely on satellite phones for communication. All necessary equipment for setting up the polling booth, including Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), will be air-dispatched to the village.

The first polling booth was set up in the village during the 2007 assembly elections. Before 2007, the villagers used to trek 72 km through the 4,654-metre-high Thamsar Pass or travel more than 300 km via Chamba to reach Bir in Baijnath (Kangra district) to exercise their franchise.

Iltija Mufti on Saturday accused the police of harassing journalists who covered the protest carried out by her mother and former chief minister (CM) Mehbooba Mufti on May 25, the voting day for the Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha. She said the journalists are being summoned to local police stations.

Mufti, who is the Peoples Democratic Party candidate from Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat, had staged a sit-in outside Bijbehara police station after police allegedly arrested many polling agents and workers of the party in different parts of Anantnag.

“Absolutely shameful that @JmuKmrPolice is harassing journalists for covering Ms Muftis protest outside Bijbehara police station on May 25. Since then they are being summoned to the police station and threatened with FIRs. Apparently at the behest of ‘upar say order’ from top police officials,” she wrote on X.

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