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11,000 feet climb, 35 km trek: How polls are conducted in remote Ladakh villages

With a day left for the first phase of Lok Sabha polls, election fever has gripped the entire nation and political parties are leaving no stones unturned to woo the voters to get the maximum votes for the 17th Lok Sabha elections. In the process, Election Commission is also not lagging behind and doing their best to get people to cast their votes.

Despite the odds, polling officials have to reach polling booths in each and every constituency where elections are being conducted be it in the plains or hills. Officials and security personnel are trekking to isolated and far-flung corners of the country to set up polling booths.

One such polling station is Zanskar in Ladakh. Zanskar is one of the many snowbound places in the difficult terrain of the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir. It is a region encircled by lofty peaks and perilous terrain.

Due to the unpredictable weather, preparation for the polling day starts a few days ahead. Polling officials, while doing their duty, climb 11,000 feet above sea level to Zanskar along with 1,500 jawans during election time to ensure security in Ladakh.

The trek to the polling station in Zanskar is arduous. The air thins out at that height and it gets difficult to breathe. Altitude sickness is also one of the reasons that make the trek grueling.

The polling officials carry with them oxygen cylinders, sleeping bags, eatables, torches as well as poll material that include EVMs and bottles of indelible ink. The polling teams and police have to trek for around 35 km to reach some of the polling stations.

There are around 50 polling stations in Zanskar with an electorate of about 11,000 while a team of five or six polling officials are present at each polling station.

The Ladakh Parliamentary constituency has four assembly segments – Kargil, Zanskar, Leh and Nubra.

The other polling stations at very high altitudes are Lingshed, Skumpata, Dipling, Neraks and Youlchung. Other high-altitude polling stations in Ladakh are Markha, Rumbak, Sriyul, Chilling, Kaya, the Nubra Valley and Skumankha.

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