Maoist-hit areas of Singhbhum to witness voting for first-time; polling teams to be air dropped

Ranchi, Apr (PTI) Come May 13, many interior areas in the Maoist den of Singhbhum Lok Sabha seat in Jharkhand will witness voting for the first time, or after decades-long gap, as polling teams and materials will be air dropped from helicopters to enable people living in Saranda, Asia’s densest Sal forest, to exercise their franchise.

As many as 118 remote booths will be set up by personnel and materials dropped from choppers.

“We are committed to ensuring that no voter is left out… we have identified many areas where polling will be conducted for the first time or after nearly two decades as these locations were badly affected by Maoist insurgency,” West Singhbhum Deputy Commissioner cum District Election Officer Kuldeep Chaudhary told PTI.
Despite improvement in the situation, West Singhbhum remains one of the worst left-wing extremism-affected districts of the country. It had witnessed 46 Maoist-related incidents resulting in 22 deaths last year.

Polling stations such as Middle School, Nugdi and Madhya Vidyalaya, Borero will witness voting for the first time this election, the DC said.
“As many as 118 booths in difficult locations such as Robokera, Binj, Thalkobad, Jaraikela, Roam, Rengrahatu, Hansabeda and Chhotanagra have been identified for air dropping. In some areas, polling parties will have to walk for 4-5 km. We are ensuring that no area remains untouched this time,” Chaudhary said.

Thalkobad and about two dozen other villages were earlier dubbed as “liberated zones” but the administration succeeded in establishing its presence through massive operations by security forces, including Operation Anaconda. A total of 15 new camps of security forces have been established in the region.
“Besides helicopters, polling parties will travel through trains and roads. As many as 121 teams will be dispatched by trains, for which dry runs have been conducted. Teams on foot have to reach cluster points, and then go to polling stations. By 5.30 am on the polling date, all teams must reach the stations to conduct mock polling,” he said.

The DC said the constituency has over 62 voters who are over 100 years of age.

One among them is Walter Lakra of Nandpur area in Manoharpur police station who told the DC that he would not be able to walk to the polling booth. Chaudhary said he will get the option to exercise his franchise at his doorstep.

The DC felicitated 100-year-old Lakra and also met some electors over 85 years of age and persons with disabilities, urging them to take benefits of home voting if they faced difficulties in reaching polling booths.
“For these 62 voters, and 3,909 electors aged above 85 years, besides 13,703 persons with disabilities, we have ensured that they get the option of home voting,” he said.

The administration is resorting to innovative ways, including putting up a giant sky balloon at a height of 100 feet, and running 1,284 ‘Chunav Pathshala’ under the Systematic Voter’s Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) to make people aware of the need to exercise their franchise.

Singhbhum, which is a reserved constituency for Scheduled Tribes, has 14.32 lakh voters, of whom 7.27 lakh are women.

Sitting MP Geeta Kora, the wife of former chief minister Madhu Koda, has been fielded from the seat by the BJP.
Kora, who was the lone Congress MP from Jharkhand in the outgoing Lok Sabha, joined the saffron camp recently. INDIA allies are yet to declare any candidate for the seat.

Singhbhum Lok Sabha seat has six assembly constituencies — Seraikela, Chaibasa, Majhganon, Jagnathpur, Manoharpur and Chakradharpur.

Barring Seraikela which falls in Seraikela-Kharsawan district, the remaining segments fall in West Singhbhum district.

Lok Sabha polls in Jharkhand will be held in four phases on May 13, 20, 25 and June 1.