Bandipora: Left with just a few teeth, 60-year-old Beeba still carries some glow on her red fluffy face. Clad in a black pheran, she made her way towards the polling booth set up slightly uphill – struggling on the walkway made muddy due to rain – at a government school in Mantrigam village. When she reached there, she was immediately directed by a man to the ballot booth.
As she came out after casting her vote, Beeba held up her ink-dyed finger. She said that the only reason for her to vote was to get the government pension to which poor widows are entitled.
Despite knocking on doors of several administrative offices, and applying for the pension twice, Beeba said she had not received a single penny for the past 9 years since her husband, Ghulam Ahmad Ahangar, an ironsmith by profession, died due to illness.
“I have voted prior to this too but even then my pleas were unheard. Now I cling on to the hope that maybe someone will help me out; rest everything is destined by Allah,” she said.
Another woman voter, also a widow, overheard her. She came to her and said, “God’s the only hope.”
Pointing to the woman, Beeba said, “She receives some 200 rupees monthly, due to being an old and poor widow.”
Beeba lives with her only son, Abdul, who has taken over his father’s profession. “My son is the only breadwinner. He is married and has his family to take care of. He does not earn enough to take care of us all,” she said.
At another booth, a white Safari car screeched through the mud before abruptly coming to a halt. An elderly woman came down from the car and quickly walked into the booth, donning a bright pink pheran.
As she came out, refusing to share her name, she shared her reason to vote: “I don’t want any troubles with my friends. After all, I have to look into their eyes and say hello.” Then she quickly walked away.
At Panar village, in the mountains, dominated by the Gujjar community, voters walked to the polling station amid dense morning fog while the fresh snow in the backdrop borough with it an extra chill.
Most of the elderly persons here were not sure why they voted. They all said that their “hopes rested on the Almighty”.
An elderly Gujjar who identified himself as Gaffar said, “We received benefits of ration supply from the last government; rest all the governments before had ignored us. Our houses are collapsing from rain and snow, there is no ground for children, water and electricity is like a dream. To see some development, we voted.”
The village is roadless. The voters said they voted because “we are in need of roads, electricity and basic amenities.”
Officials said 48.96 percent voting was recorded in Phase 9 of Panchayat elections held at Banakoot block in Bandipora. Of the total 14 Sarpanch segments here, voting was held for 9 as 3 remained vacant and 2 were won unopposed. Of the total 100 Panch wards, 38 remained vacant and 36 were won unopposed. Polling was held at 26 wards.