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31july2011dhasaDharamshala: - On Sunday, 31 July, 2011, the final round of elections for Dharamshala Tibetan Refugee Settlement Welfare Officer were held in the Himalayan hill town of McleodGanj. The final two candidates were Mr. Sonam Dorjee, former President of the Dharamshala Regional Tibetan Youth Congress, and Mr.Bhuchung Tashi, ex-Army.

The position of Welfare Officer is responsible for seeking solutions to social issues, for example child care, education and old-age provision. Among its main goals is the achievement of social, religious and political harmony. T.W.O. is also giving legal advices in cases of conflicts in the society.

To be elected, a candidate needs to receive more than 51% of the vote.

In most Tibetan settlements, the Welfare Officer position is filled by appointment. McleodGanj (Dharamshala) is one of three settlements which elect the position, the other locations being Pokhara Settlement in Nepal and the Ladakh region. After casting his ballot, Mr. Sonam Dorjee la spoke to TPI, expressing the strong need for Tibetan communities to participate in the democratic process.

There were eight polling stations set up around the Dharamshala area, including Tsuglakhang, Upper and Lower TCV schools, Sarah College, Norbulingka, at the government offices and Tibetan library, and neighboring Gopalpur. When the polls opened at 9am, approximately 70 voters were waiting to cast their ballots at Tsuglakhang, with more steadily filing into the voting area.

Voters presented their Green Books (an ID document showing they pay taxes to the exile government) and were added to a list before receiving a ballot slip, which they filled out in curtained booths and then dropped into one of two ballot boxes.

Ballots from all polling stations will be counted on 1 August. The result is expected to be announced by 3 August.

Tibetan Welfare Office at Mcleodganj is serving as the liaison between the Tibetans in Dharamshala and the Department of Home, Central Tibetan Administration. It is the principal office to look after welfare and overall control of running of affairs of the Tibetans in the area.

The welfare officer is the representative of the Department of Home, CTA. Daily task for the representative range from adjudicating disputes to communicating with group leaders and outside authorities, and generally watching over the running of all aspects of the settlement. There are 5 Tibetan schools, 15 monasteries, 1 old People's Home under the welfare office.

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