30,000 Ladakhi students for special steps to cast vote

Arteev Sharma

Tribune News Service

Jammu, March 26

As the parliamentary polls are inch closer in Jammu and Kashmir, around 30,000 students from Ladakh studying outside the region are uncertain about their participation in the elections as the authorities are yet to take a call on making special polling arrangements for them.

According to statistics provided by various organisations of students from Ladakh, there are around 15,000 students, including 8,000 to 9,000 Buddhist students from Leh district, studying in Jammu city, while their number in Chandigarh is between 5,000 and 6,000 and 8,000 and 9,000 in Delhi.

Though these student groups have taken up the matter with the election authorities, no decision has been taken whether special polling stations will be set up for such students outside the Ladakh parliamentary seat which has a history of narrow contests in the past, making the votes of these students a deciding factor.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP candidate Thupstan Chhewang had defeated his rival, Ghulam Raza, an independent candidate, by a margin of just 36 votes. Similarly, Ghulam Hassan Khan, who had fought the 2009 parliamentary elections as an independent candidate from the Ladakh seat, had defeated the Congress candidate Phuntsog Namgyal by a margin of 3,708 votes.

“We have approached the Deputy Commissioner Leh, who is the Returning Officer (RO) for the Ladakh seat, for making special polling arrangements for students from Ladakh in Jammu so that they can participate in the poll process. No such arrangements would mean depriving us of the election process as no student would travel over 700 km distance from Jammu to exercise his or her right to franchise,” said Lobzang Nurboo, president All Ladakh Students Association (ALSA) Jammu.

Nurboo added, “We appeal to the Election Commission of India (ECI) for making special polling arrangements for us. Either all students from the Ladakh region, who are above 18 years, be airlifted to their respective native places or special polling stations be set up in Jammu to facilitate their voting.”

Taking a dig at the political class, he said, “Politicians too don’t want to ensure students’ participation in elections as 40 per cent youths out of Ladakh’s total population is educated that can question them for their under-performance. They find their vote-bank in gullible villagers who seldom question them.”

Shakeel Ahmed, president, Kargil Students Association, said they too had approached the election authorities for ensuring the participation of students in the election process.

Avny Lavasa, RO, Ladakh seat, said she had written to the Chief Electoral Officer, J&K, over the issue, but any decision in this regard would be taken by the ECI. “Firstly, they are late in making their representation and secondly, this is a larger issue to be dealt by the ECI. As far as airlifting of students to Ladakh for voting is concerned, we will take a call as and when we receive any such request from them.”

Exercising franchise 

  • There are around 15,000 students, including 8,000 to 9,000 Buddhist students from Leh district, studying in Jammu city, while their number in Chandigarh is between 5,000 and 6,000 and 8,000 and 9,000 in Delhi
  • These student groups have taken up the matter with the election authorities but no decision has been taken as to whether special polling stations will be set up for such students outside the Ladakh parliamentary seat, which has a history of narrow contests in the past, making the votes of these students a deciding factor
  • Lobzang Nurboo, president of All Ladakh Students Association (ALSA), Jammu, said “Politicians too don’t want to ensure students’ participation in elections as 40 per cent youths out of Ladakh’s total population is educated that can question them for their under-performance. They find their vote-bank in gullible villagers who seldom question them”
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