Tough task ahead for EC in remote areas of HP

Two peculiar polling stations in separate villages in the far-flung reaches of poll-bound Himachal Pradesh have thrown up a challenge of sorts for the Election Commission (EC).

One of these polling stations can only be reached by helicopter, while the other has to be reached by boat since this one is set up on a island. .

The polling booth in Bada Bhanghal village in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh has just 43 voters and it takes three to four days on foot to reach the village from the nearest road.

Since the prospects of election officials walking all the way to the village is not only absurd but not feasible, the state Election Commission will be transporting officials and electronic voting machines (EVM) to the village through a helicopter.

The chopper will undertake multiple sorties beginning November 3 and continue to do so till a day after the elections, state Election Commissioner Narinder Chauhan told Deccan Herald.

There is no road that connects this village. Even if the 43 voters in the village cast their votes by noon on polling day, election officials cannot return the same day and will have to remain there till 5 pm. That’s because a voter can turn up in the nick of time to exercise his franchise, said Chauhan.

The EC has also set up a polling booth on an island, the Sach Kuther booth, with only 94 voters. Chauhan said, “We have deployed a boat which will ferry officials and EVMs to and fro.”     

However, there are plenty of polling booths in the state where officials will have to walk for several hours and reach a day or two in advance. Walking distances will vary from 10 to 20 km from the nearest road. It’s a tough order for it requires climbing mountains, forested rugged terrains in increasingly cold weather.

To reach a booth in Kasha village in Shimla district, polling staff will be required to walk at least 20 km on foot. Sources said there are dozens of polling booths in the state that require to be reached on foot. There is a likelihood of EVMs developing snag in freezing temperatures. The EC is packing spare EVMs and batteries for these “foot soldiers.”

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