Samba: Vowing to participate in the developmental policies concerning their backward hamlets, residents of Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday voted for empowerment of the grass root level democracy, ignoring separatists' call for boycott.
"I have voted for empowerment of making decision regarding my basic needs - road, water supply, power supply, ration," 37-year-old Swami Raj said after casting his vote in the first phase of JK Panchayat elections at a polling station in the outskirts of Samba, 45 km from Jammu.
47-year-old Ranjni Devi, who is contesting election for village Panch said, "What we need will be decided by us at the panchayat and not by officers and ministers. We will decide fate of the our village."
In Bishan, people in colourful attires made beelines in front of the polling booths to choose their representatives at the local level.
"We want power to be exercised by us. We do not want governance from civil secretariat. We know what is good for us," Chowdary Naseeb Din, a voter, said.
Din, whose Gujjar Basti in Bishan area is still devoid of the basic facilities, said "It is vote for getting and deciding for ourselves our basic needs."
More than 2,800 candidates are in the fray for the first phase of the 16-phase Panchayat elections held in eight blocks including Bishnah, Samba and Udhampur in Jammu district and Kangan, Budgam, Qoimoh and Kupwara in Kashmir region.
The last Panchayat elections, held after a gap of 23 years, were conducted in the state in 2001-02 and the next edition was due in 2006 but could not be held due to various reasons, especially the fragile security situation.
The second phase of the polling will be held on April 17, third on April 21, fourth on April 25, fifth on April 30, sixth on May 4, seventh on May 8, eighth on May 12, ninth on May 16 and 10th to 16th phases will be held on May 21, May 25, May 29, June 2, June 6, June 11 and June 18 respectively.
The counting of votes shall be taken up immediately after the polling process is over and the results shall be announced immediately thereafter, officials said.