Upset over official apathy towards the problems faced by them, not even a single voter turned up to vote
Peeved over a prolonged administrative indifference towards their plight, voters of two peripheral villages of the Capital put their foot down and for the first time ever decided to boycott en masse the civic elections on Sunday. The polling booths at both the places remained deserted throughout the day, with not even a single voter turning up to exercise their franchise.
Not far from the desolate polling booths set up inside the school premises, the youth and the elderly of Ladpur village in Outer Delhi sat in groups discussing further course of action, even as the womenfolk had gathered at one place singing “kirtan” as a mark of protest.
“We were left with no alternative, but to boycott the elections. Ours is a 700-year-old village where despite repeated requests, Chak Bandi (land consolidation) has not been done since 1908. With the ever increasing population, we are left with little space to accommodate all families. Without consolidation, we cannot build new structures legally,” said an anguished 70-year-old Balram Singh.
Another resident, Rahul Dabas, said many families were forced to move out, while some had constructed houses bribing their way out.
Praveen Dabas, an advocate, said the Delhi High Court had in November last issued directions to expedite consolidation proceedings from the date of the order. “However, they have not initiated the process, neither on paper nor on the field. We had sought details through an RTI application, but received an unsatisfactory reply. The villagers have been running from pillar to post, but to no avail. Through consolidation, which has already been done in the neighbouring villages, we want the authorities to expand the Lal Dora land whereby we can legally construct new houses. Our Constitution guarantees the right to a dignified life. Why should we vote, if the Government cannot even protect our fundamental right?” said Praveen, adding that it was at a meeting on April 1 that the villagers finally decided to boycott the elections till their demands are met.
“There are 4,256 listed voters and none of them have come so far,” said a poll officer, sipping the tea provided by the villagers.
The polling booths at Sanoth village in Outer Delhi wore the same deserted look, with nearly 2,500 voters deciding to abstain in order to lodge their protest against a newly-developed sanitary landfill site along Narela-Bawana Road, located some distance from the village settlement. “The stench of the garbage dump hanging in the air all the time has made the place unliveable. Many villagers have developed breathing problems in the past six months and we fear that the situation would worsen further causing more serious health complications in the future,” said Umed Singh, a retired school principal.
“Although the authorities have constructed a pond in the village, not a single drop of water has been stored there. Our cattle are surviving on drainage water. We have provided land for a hospital, but it has not come up so far. What we have is a dispensary that is being run from a rented place. The school building is in a dilapidated state, there is no proper play ground for children. It is shocking that a village located in the national Capital is deprived of even basic amenities even 64 years after Independence,” said Rajendra Vats, pointing out that the village road had been constructed a few days ago in view of the elections.
Alleging that the previously elected councillor had not paid a visit to the area even for once in the past five years, the angry villagers threatened to boycott all the elections henceforth till things were set right.