As dawn spreads over Khanmoh with sun rising above the area’s rickety looking mountains, people mostly elderly wearing traditional pherans carrying kangris inside to keep themselves cozy emerge outside the polling stations.
The polling station located at the area’s Bongam locality along the main road is manned by scores of security personnel, who keep a close watch on everyone moving inside or coming out after casting a vote.
A group of elderly men chat outside the polling station after casting their votes. All the five men have been voting all their lives. Their motivation to cast their vote transcends beyond road, water and electricity. It is essentially to wade off air pollution that they say has wreaked havoc to their once pristine land.
Fayaz Ahmad Bhat, 54, has voted all his life with one wish that his land gets cleared of air pollution. He prays this time his “never fulfilled wish” is fulfilled.
“There is pollution. It is our biggest concern right now. There are a cluster of POP factories in our area. Our lands have degraded. They (factory people) are not even installing dust controllers, so that air quality would get better. Nobody listens to us. Let us see what happens this time. We have been promised and we have got no choice,” says Bhat.
There is also Abdul Ahad Mir. Wearing a cap and a muffler, Mir in his late 70s has been voting for decades with the hope that his fortunes will change. However, his condition has not changed except for Mir’s wrinkles have turned more deeper.
“We have suffered due to factories in our area. There is pollution. At least we as locals should get benefitted. I have voted this time with this hope. If the government has will, it can do anything,” says Mir as he walks past.
Some meters away, there is another polling station inside a government higher secondary school uphill at Astan Colony locality. People in small numbers trickle inside to cast their vote.
Among the voters is Abdul KhaliqAhanger. In his 70s, Ahanger, a farmer, had a “big worry” at his hand this time. He says land of farmers like him is in danger, and believes it is through his vote that he can ward off “threat looming large over farmers” like him.
“It is depressing under this regime. We need to get out of it. Our farming has become difficult. They are mulling to take our farms now. Roshni Act has been repealed. A farmer who has taken loan on his land, it is being said that land will now be taken by the government. It is hard now,” says Ahanger.
He adds: “We can change it only through voting to bring people who know us, who will help us to come out of it”.