Polling is underway for the first phase of the District Development Councils (DDCs) in Jammu and Kashmir with precautionary measures for COVID-19 in place.
Voting began across 43 constituencies - 25 in Kashmir and 18 in Jammu at 7 AM today and will end at 2 PM. As many as 296 candidates including 207 males and 89 females are in the fray.
Elections for the DDCs, which are being held in eight phases, will conclude on December 19 and the counting of votes will take place on December 22.
Officials at the polling stations are ensuring that coronavirus guidelines are followed. Voters were seen wearing masks and observing social distancing.
Voters who arrived at the polling stations are only allowed inside after a temperature check followed by sanitisation.
Some polling officials were also seen wearing PPE kits in the view of coronavirus.
KK Sharma, State Election Commissioner had earlier said that the health department is engaged with district election machinery to implement coronavirus guidelines.
"There are 20 districts in Jammu and Kashmir. District Development Council is being constituted in every district. In every district, 14 representatives will be elected. We have taken remote areas in the first and second phase," he said.
"State Election Commission has issued guidelines in the view of COVID-19. The health department is engaged with district election machinery to implement these guidelines. Masks availability, sanitisers, and thermometers have been made available," he added.
Sharma had said if someone has a high temperature, the presiding officer will ask him to come to the polling station between 1-2 pm. "Every pollings station has been provided PPE kits," he said.
COVID-affected people in isolation in hospitals or at home can cast their vote through postal ballot.
"Polls started in Bhalessa and Changa DDC constituencies. People coming since 7 am. We are seeing enthusiastic participation," said Dr Sagar, Doda District Development Commissioner.
Voting for 368 Panch constituencies is also underway in which 852 candidates including 635 males and 217 females are contesting. Polling for 94 Sarpanch constituencies is also being held today.
A voter Durga Singh said that the three-tier system will ensure the development of every region in the Union Territory.
"DDC elections are taking place after 70 years. After the panchayat elections, we need to go to MLA for funds. Now, this government conducted BDC elections. Now, the three-tier system is being implemented. We have a lot of expectations from it because panchayats will get the fund directly. People are excited," he said.
Satish Sharma, Additional Deputy Commissioner, Jammu said the authorities have ensured all preparations for polling.
"Our preparations are in place. There is a proper security arrangement. Our polling parties have reached their respective polling stations. We have set up a special polling station at Government College for Women, Gandhi Nagar for migrant voters," Sharma told ANI.
Parties including the National Conference, People's Democratic Party (PDP), Peoples Conference, and CPI(M), formed the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration and are fighting the maiden DDC elections together. National parties BJP and Congress are also in the fray.
Karan Singh, who reached a government school in Akhnoor to cast his vote thanked the Central government for conducting the DDC elections.
"First of all, I thank the Central government for abrogating Article 370 and 35A. Earlier, all powers were with MLA only. We are happy with the first DDC elections. We thank Central government for it," he said.