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Asia’s highest polling station no problem but lower areas are
Kuldeep Chauhan
Tribune News Service

Keylong (Lahaul-Spiti), October 29
Asia’s highest polling station at Hikkem village, located on a globular plateau virtually above clouds, has a communication link to the outside world, but 25 polling stations located at much lower altitudes in this snowbound district pose a Himalayan challenge to the authorities to conduct elections here as no communication system works there.

Deputy commissioner-cum-returning officer, Lahaul-Spiti, A.S. Rathaur has requested the Election Commission to provide satellite phones for communication to meet any emergency situation that might arise out due to snowfall in the area as harsh winter season has already set in there.

“The commission has identified 25 polling stations where no communication system works be it walkie-talkie, radio sets, mobile phones or landline telephones. So we have asked for satellite phones,” said officials. “We will depute poll parties comprising four officials each at all polling booths on November 11,” he added.

Out of these 25 polling stations, 12 stations — Leedang, Demul, Lalung, Gieu, Poh, Tangti Yogma, Mood, Teiling in Spiti and Chimret, Karpat, Chhaling and Khanjar in Lahaul — are such where no communication system works. “Twelve other polling stations have telephone lines nearby, but there is no official arrangement for communication. So, they also face communication problem,” officials added.

Home to over 150 Buddhist tribal people, Hikkem polling station, Asia’s highest village, has 318 voters, including 148 females. Spiti has 7,066 voters, including 3,644 males and 3,422 females.

Located at a height of 15,000 ft even clouds do not reach Hikkem, as this village, like rest of the Spiti region, is located in the rain shadow.

Spiti is separated by the 15,000-foot-high Kunjum Pass from Lahaul valley and is around 180 km from Keylong, the district headquarters. Hence it faces communication problems due to bad weather.

“Our ancestors from Kaza set up their homes here in the distant past as there was no land in the lower region,” said Ringzin, a resident from Hikkem, who has come to Keylong to meet his relative. “Barley is the only crop grown in the village and has been a staple food for those living here for centuries. Now, villagers have started growing black peas as a cash crop,” he added.

More than 300 Spitians came to Keylong at the time of filing of nominations by Congress candidate Phunchog Rai, who hails from Lari Panchayat in Spiti, BJP candidate Ramlal Markanda from Udaipur and BSP candidate Birsingh Rawal, who hails from Shansha village in Pattan valley.

“No party candidate has reached Hikkem so far. Maybe they will come later as there are still two weeks left for the election. We have a link road, but for treatment, the patients have to come back to Kaza, subdivisional headquarters, around 25 km from the village,” villagers said.

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