Violation of compulsary face mask and social distancing rules was witnessed as voters in large number turned up to vote in the first phase of the District Development Council (DDC) elections in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday.
Polling is being held amid tight security and under COVID-19 guidelines in 43 DDC constituencies. 1,427 candidates are in the fray and seven lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise.
Voters across the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir braved the severe cold and turned up in large numbers to exercise their democratic right. Many waited in long queues outside polling booths bundled up in woollens to cast their votes.
This led to violation of COVID-19 guidelines as many without masks were seen queuing up next to each other.
Watch this video to understand how heavy crowd led to violation of COVID-19 guidelines
Earlier, State Election Commissioner KK Sharma had urged the people to follow the guidelines issued by the Election Commission, besides using face masks and maintaining social distance during polling. The SEC said the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) related to the COVID-19 pandemic are in place and sanitizers and face masks shall be provided to the voters, in case they forget to carry their own.
Sharma said that the health department is engaged to implement Covid-19 guidelines.
Polling began at 7 am and will take place till 2 pm. The DDC elections are being held in five phases. For 43 constituencies in the first phase a total of 296 candidates are in the fray -- 172 from Kashmir and 124 from Jammu. Elections for the DDCs will conclude on December 19 and the counting of votes be held on December 22.
After the revocation of Article 370, the Centre amended the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Raj Act-1989 to pave way for district development council polls in the union territory.
By-elections to 12,153 panchayat constituencies and 234 vacant seats of Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) are also taking place along with the DDC polls, which will be held in eight phases.
Sharma said the sarpanch election will be conducted in 94 constituencies and a total of 279 candidates (203 males, 76 females) are contesting in the first phase.
Similarly, in panchs bypolls, which are going to be held in 368 constituencies, 852 candidates are in the electoral fray out of which 635 are male and 217 are female, he added.
Sharma said 2,146 polling stations have been set up for the smooth conduct of elections of phase-I.