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Maiden voting for tribal Satipatis community in Gujarat polls

Ahmedabad, Nov 26, 2012 (PTI)

Satipati Sampradaya, a tribal community in South Gujarat which resists associating itself with the administration, has been enrolled for the first time in the voters' list and is likely to exercise franchise in the 2012 state assembly polls, officials said.

In a first, the Sampradaya members have been enrolled in districts like Tapi, Dang, Narmada, Valsad, amongst others, and few have also been issued Electoral Photo Identity Cards (EPICs), enhancing probability of their participation in the festival of democracy-elections. The tribal community takes pride in keeping themselves aloof from any of the government's schemes. The Satipati 'movement' is touted to have been active in Gujarat prior to Independence (1930s) but has been loosing sheen from 1995 onwards, after reaching a high.

Dang, where around 90 per cent population is tribal, is considered to be base of Satipatis, with an estimated population of around 3,000 people. "About 2,500 Satipatis have been enrolled in Dang district after we launched a massive door-to-door campaign to convince them," DEO Dang P K Solanki said.

"Seeking help of educated young members in their family helped in getting them enrolled....some of them have been issued EPICs and process is on...we expect them to vote this time," he said.

Gujarat will go to polls on December 13 and 17. "Estimated population of Satipatis in Narmada is nearly 600, of which 75 percent have been enrolled. With our persistent efforts and cajoling, around 50 per cent of the enrolled have been issued EPICs," DEO Narmada Milind Torawane said.

"We are still trying hard again to convince the left outs from the community," Torawane said. "Still a few hardcore Satipatis exist, who refuse to provide photographs for EPICs...efforts are on to enrol them and link them with mainstream," say official sources in ECI.

"Our booth level officers shall visit them and cajole them to exercise their franchise," Solanki said, adding that a few hardcore ones from the community still resist from voting.

ECI, as part of its Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP), has emphasised on enrolment of tribal community members in Gujarat. "Efforts are underway to ensure better participation of the Satipati Sampradaya in process of election," ECI Director General Akshay Raut said.

BJP MLA from Dang, Vijay Patel said, "Better voter turnout is welcome. A minuscule segment of Satipati community exercised franchise in 2007 assembly elections, if the number goes up its good."


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