Deserted lands: No polling booth in 24 Uttarakhand villages

The surprising factor leading to their exclusion from the electoral process is the recent designation of these villages as “uninhabited villages”, as reported by the State Migration Commission.
The 24 villages which have been active participants in the past 16 Lok Sabha elections since independence, will not be able to exercise their franchise this time around.
The 24 villages which have been active participants in the past 16 Lok Sabha elections since independence, will not be able to exercise their franchise this time around.Photo | EPS

DEHRADUN : Despite the Election Commission of India’s diligent efforts to enhance voter participation in the Lok Sabha elections, for the first time since independence, 24 villages in Uttarakhand will not have a single polling booth on April 19, the election-day. Referred to as “deserted villages” in official terms, these are known to locals as “ghost villages”.

As per the data provided by the State Election Commission, the 24 villages which have been active participants in the past 16 Lok Sabha elections since independence, will not be able to exercise their franchise this time around.

The surprising factor leading to their exclusion from the electoral process is the recent designation of these villages as “uninhabited villages”, as reported by the State Migration Commission.

According to the commission’s findings, “These villages are now deemed uninhabited, located in the districts of Almora, Tehri, Champawat, Pauri Garhwal, Pithoragarh, and Chamoli.

The second report released in February 2023 brought forth a significant trend of temporary migration from 6,436 gram panchayats in the state between 2018 and 2022.”

The report explicitly states that “Over three lakh individuals departed their villages in pursuit of employment. Nevertheless, these individuals sporadically returned. Concurrently, permanent migration occurred in 2067 gram panchayats within the state. Residents departed their villages in quest of employment, education, healthcare, and did not return.”

The migration commission’s study, as referenced in the report, revealed that numerous individuals sold their ancestral lands, leaving many plots barren. Notably, a staggering 80 gram panchayats in the Almora district were abandoned due to permanent migration. A significant finding highlighted in the commission’s report is that between 2018 and 2022, as many as 24 villages in the state became entirely “uninhabited”.

In this scenario, the deserted villages will not witness the vibrancy of the general elections this time. Since no polling booth will be established in the areas, hence there is no rationale for candidates to campaign there.

Speaking to this newspaper, Uttarakhand’s Chief Electoral Officer, BVRC Purushottam pointed out, “While this issue is linked to migration, the Election Commission has established polling booths even in extremely remote regions of the state inhabited by as less as 50 voters. The Commission’s aim is to facilitate inclusive voting in hard-to-reach areas.”

As per the information gathered, “Between 2018 and 2022, a total of 28,531 individuals residing in 2,067 gram panchayats in the state underwent permanent migration, relocating to district headquarters or other districts. The highest proportion, at 35.47 per cent, opted for nearby towns. 23.61 per cent of individuals moved to other districts while 21.08 per cent went beyond state boundaries.

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