Voter mood mixed in border areas of Ri Bhoi

Residents hope for better amenities, infrastructure

From Saurav Borah

LUM NONGRIM (Ri Bhoi): By noon, there were just about three to four persons queuing up to a polling station set up at the Presbyterian Upper Primary School here on Thursday.

Asked about the apparently low turnout, the booth level officer said the scene was not quite as it appeared, with about 50 per cent of the electors (about 300) already casting their vote since morning.

“But if you compare with Assembly or district council elections, the enthusiasm for the parliamentary elections pales out somewhat. Not that the turnout has been poor today but people have been trickling in even as those from far-flung areas are yet to come,” said H. Lapang, a resident, as he sat on the verandah of the school building, looking a tad unenthused after casting his vote.

There are reasons for some residents here to go through the motions though, unsure whether their vote would make a difference at the end of the day.

A 300-metre kutcha, almost unmotorable stretch to the village from the national highway has remained thus for more than two decades. Other roads, PWD or NEC-sponsored, that link the village to Nongpoh and Umden, are not in the best condition.

“I have lived here for about 25 years now. Officers come here and take measurements but the kutcha stretch has not turned pucca,” Kameshwar Rai, a petty trader, rued, as he deferred his exercise of voting to the second half of the day.      

The sight was no different at the Community Hall polling station on the other side of the national highway in Byrnihat, where only about 40 per cent turned out to vote by mid day.

However, at Harlibagan, about a kilometre away, the queues were relatively longer and the eagerness to transform lives, greater.

Here, the crowd was predominantly from Garo hamlets such as Dehal Bagan and Upper Bagan, which have been struggling to get adequate drinking water and proper healthcare amid pollution from industrial units nearby.

“I came to Harlibagan walking from at 9am and have been waiting till 11am now,” said Christina G. Momin, a middle-aged daily wage earner.

Asked if she was eager to make her vote count given the age-old issues, “We have come here all the way to vote and make a difference. The road was earlier a problem but now it is being upgraded, thankfully. I have not attended meetings of the political leaders but would want the representative to uplift our lives,” Christina said, as she held an umbrella to protect her from the scorching sun.

At Ampher, a few kilometers away, the voting percentage in two centres was relatively better, about 60 per cent, by 1pm.

This correspondent visited about six polling stations in the area to find a mix of first-time voters, middle-aged and aged who had queued up from morning to vote at these polling stations located along the Meghalaya-Assam border.

As for Byrnihat town under Shillong parliamentary constituency, there is a multi-ethnic population, part of which has migrated from places outside the state and settled here for decades now.

“We want good roads, adequate power and clean drinking, water, for which I have come here to vote,” R.S. Choudhury, a resident, said with nothing more to add.


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