SHILLONG, March 19 � Several villages in Meghalaya�s West Khasi Hills district would not vote in the ensuing Lok Sabha election in protest, as the 50-year-old roads in the area have never been repaired, even as the Meghalaya Government today said that voting is a �voluntary and not a compulsory� exercise.
These 100 remote villages in Mawait area, covering eight polling stations, did not vote during the District Council polls held in February this year and have decided to stay away from the Lok Sabha elections as well.
They see no reason why they should exercise their franchise because the last time they saw a road being built in their area was during the erstwhile Assam Government way back in 1965. After that, the roads have neither been repaired nor maintained despite several pleas.
This information was brought before the Assembly by Wittingson Massor, the local MLA from the area, during a call attention motion.
He said that the 35-km stretch of the road from Nongstoin, the district headquarter of West Khasi Hills, to Mawait was last built in 1965 by the then Assam Government. Moreover, the Nongstoin-Wahlyngdoh road (15 km), Wahlyngdoh-Mawait (15 km) and Mawait-Kulang (20 km), too, have not been built for several decades.
The area is rich in minerals like coal, limestone and uranium, and is strategically placed close to Bangladesh.
�The Mawait road is the shortest distance to reach the Bangladesh border from Nongstoin,� he said.
Mawsor, who represents the Mawshyrut constituency from the Hill State People Democratic Party, wondered if the area was deliberately kept underdeveloped because the people there have traditionally been non-Congress voters.
As he sought an assurance from the government that it would look into the grievances of the villagers, the legislator instead got a lesson on the rules of the Election Commission. Deputy Chief Minister in-charge Elections, Rowell Lyngdoh, rose and explained the rules saying that �voting is an absolute voluntary exercise and not compulsory.�
Even when Massor insisted that he was well aware of the rules of the Election Commission but was only looking for an assurance from the government, the Minister remained noncommittal and again referred to the EC rules and the duties of the voters.
�The Election Department is conducting the Systematic Voters� Education Electoral Participation campaign to educate voters of their rights and duties and we would persuade people to vote,� Lyngdoh said.