Voters in large numbers braving the cold weather and foggy conditions on Friday made a beeline at a polling station in Sukhnag constituency of central Kashmir’s Budgam district hoping that the nearby tourism circuit gets an infrastructure boost.
Located close to the popular health-resort Doodhpathri and picturesque Tosamaidan, people of this area said the main reason for them to vote was that it should be developed as a tourist destination.
Altaf Hussain Mir of Hardapanzoo village said he voted to ensure that Tosamaidan which “is one of a kind place” gets a boost to its tourism potential.
“For several years we have been urging the government to declare Tosamaidan as a tourist destination and encourage visitors to spend their holidays at this spot. We voted so that this place which is quite unique gets developed. People who visit this place get amazed by its beauty but authorities have not been showing seriousness for its development,” Mir said. “Any sort of development to tourism will ensure there is employment generation for our youngsters. We are sitting idle but in case of a boost to tourism, we can start small cafeterias and be involved in other activities for the visitors.”
Abdul Rasheed Shah of Harda Panzoo village said the village in the past had been completely neglected and civic works restricted to “a few selected” surrounding villages.
“I voted with a hope that it brings an end to unemployment in the area. We have youngsters in the village who are jobless and need to be provided some kind of employment avenues, especially living so close to a tourist destination,” Shah said.
Another voter Manzoor Ahmad said that the villagers were facing several hardships as it was very difficult to create a livelihood in absence of a proper tourism infrastructure.
“We voted to convey our point of view that Doodhpathri has an equal potential to grow as Gulmarg. It is just a matter of grooming this place” he said.
Another voter Tawseef Ahmad Khan from Chakmarg said the people in the area were hopeful that young candidates in the fray for polls would help in the growth of tourism-related amenities.
Several octogenarians could also be seen casting their vote in Sukhnag constituency.
Khateeja Bano, a senior citizen, said she visited the polling centre despite several ailments with a “hope that having effective representatives of the area will give youth employment opportunities”.
Another elderly voter from Arizal area said she was happy that she could vote and that she had faith in the young candidates who were in the fray.
Many first-time voters had also turned up for voting.
First time voter Aadil Ahmad from Arizal said the degree college in the area was located far off and the road leading to it was not properly developed.
“We have to get enrolled in the degree college in Beerwah in absence of a college in our area. We are hopeful that our vote will bring a change in the education sector and areas such as ours are not neglected,” Ahmad said.