New Delhi: Voting for the fifth phase of the ongoing District Development Council (DDC) elections in 37 constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir has started on early Thursday morning from 7 am. This phase will also witness the voting for 58 vacant Sarpanch and 218 vacant Panch seats.Also Read - Cloudburst : From Jammu And Kashmir to Himachal Pradesh, Watch When And Where Nature’s Fierce Form Was Seen

State Election Commissioner K.K. Sharma said that of 37 DDC constituencies, 17 are in the Kashmir division and 20 in the Jammu division. The polling will be held between 7am and 2pm. In the 17 DDC constituencies of Kashmir, there are 155 candidates in fray, including 30 women, while in Jammu division, 144 candidates, including 40 women, are contesting. Also Read - Drone Shot Down in J&K's Kanachak, Explosive Material Recovered

Sharma also said said there are 125 Sarpanch vacancies which have been notified in the 5th phase and out of these 30 have been elected unopposed. There shall be a contest in 58 constituencies and 175 candidates, including 51 women, are in fray. Also Read - BREAKING: Drone Spotted Near IAF Station in Jammu Again

Similarly, out of the total 1,412 Panch vacancies notified in this phase, 218 constituencies will go for elections with 527 candidates including 137 female candidates in the fray.

In the fifth phase, he said, 827,519 electors are eligible to cast their votes and comprise 433,285 male and 394,234 female voters. Among these, 439,529 are from the Jammu division and 387,990 from the Kashmir division.

He said that a total of 2,104 polling stations have been setup across the UT for this phase, of which, 914 are in Jammu division and 1,190 are in Kashmir division. Of the total polling stations, 1,193 are hyper sensitive, 472 are sensitive and 439 have been categorised as normal. Polling will be held from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The SEC said that out of these 2104 polling stations, polling for the Sarpanch vacancies will be held on 271 polling stations and for Panch vacancies on 229 polling stations.

He said that all the requisite arrangements for this phase are in place including manpower, election material and security arrangements in all poll-bound areas.

The fourth phase of DDC elections held on December 7 (Monday) in 34 constituencies saw over 50 percent turn out. Meanwhile, the first phase of DDC elections on November 28 saw 51.76 percent voter turnout while second phase polls witnessed 48.62 percent on December 1 and the third phase of DDC elections on December 4 registered voter turnout of 50.53 percent.

In view of Covid-19 pandemic, adequate arrangements have been put in place to ensure safety of all stake holders including the voters. Sanitisers, thermal scanners and face masks have been arranged at the polling stations to ensure that SOPs issued by the authorities are strictly followed.

The DDC election is being held in eight phases and will continue till December 19. The counting of votes will take place on December 22. The elections are the first being held after the abrogation of Article 370 and the reorganisation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.