Drive to issue photo identity cards

The Telegraph

Kalimpong, April 20: The Kalimpong subdivisional administration today started a three-day drive to issue photo identity cards to new voters and those who have lost their cards.

The aim, sub-divisional officer Amyas Tshering said, was to ensure maximum EPIC coverage before the D-Day of April 30 when voters would exercise their franchise.

Seventy-one-year-old Nima Dorji Tamang trekked for about two-and-a-half hours from his village at Lower Makum to Bakrakote and then travelled on a jeep for two more hours to reach here for the EPIC. Tamang had lost his previous card.

However, 10,016 of the 1,59,334 registered voters in the subdivision, are yet to receive their cards.

“In the past, the SDO’s office had carried out extended campaigns, but for some reasons, the huge backlog remained. Given the shortage of time, I am not too sure if we can issue cards to all of them if they were to turn up,” said Tshering.

Tamang, though, is not the only one who had to trek for miles before reaching here. Taraman Subba and his wife Lalita had to walk for three hours from their Rateybusty village to reach the Coronation Bridge at Sevoke before boarding a vehicle for the town. Kalimpong being the largest hill subdivision in the district, its hinterland is spread far and wide.

To ensure people do not have to travel very far, the administration has also opened extension counters at Algarah and Gorubathan, the headquarters of Block II and Block III respectively.

However, since the villages of Tamang and the Subbas are in Kalimpong-headquartered Block I, they have to trek for miles.

Given the political mood in the hills, they, however, seemed excited about exercising their franchise, come polling day. “People have told us that this is an important election, and we must cast our votes. That is another reason why we have taken the pains to collect our voter cards,” said Subba.

First-time voter Deepa Sharma, who was waiting in the middle of a long queue at the Block I office, said she could not wait to get her hands on her EPIC. “This will enable me to vote in favour of Gorkhaland,” she blushed, but refused to take any more questions.

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