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Lok Sabha Elections 2024| 101-year-old woman spearheads home voting trend in Maoist-hit Singhbhum

Frail and unable to navigate the journey to the polling booth, Bela, born on October 24, 1923, refused to let her physical limitations deter her. Instead, she opted for home voting, a decision that underscores her unwavering dedication to participating in the electoral process.
Last Updated : 08 May 2024, 10:19 IST
Last Updated : 08 May 2024, 10:19 IST

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Chaibasa: In the Maoist-hit Singhbhum Lok Sabha constituency in Jharkhand, 101-year-old Bela Sen stands as a beacon of resilience and determination. In a region where exercising one's democratic right often comes with formidable challenges, Bela's unwavering commitment to casting her vote shines through.

Frail and unable to navigate the journey to the polling booth, Bela, born on October 24, 1923, refused to let her physical limitations deter her. Instead, she opted for home voting, a decision that underscores her unwavering dedication to participating in the electoral process.

Thanks to the efforts of West Singhbhum deputy commissioner Kuldeep Chaudhary, who personally visited her home with all necessary polling materials, including a voting compartment, to ensure that Sen's wish was fulfilled.

"We are committed to ensuring that no voter is left out in this largest democratic exercise in the world... There are several others like Bela Sen for whom we have made special home voting arrangements," Chaudhary, who is also the district election officer, told PTI.

The DC said the constituency has more than 62 voters who are over 100 years old. Among them is Walter Lakra of Nandpur area within Manoharpur police station limits, who conveyed to the DC his inability to walk to the polling booth. Chaudhary assured him that he would get the option to exercise his franchise at his doorstep.

"For these 62 centenarians and 3,909 electors above 85 years, besides 13,703 persons with disabilities (PwDs), we ensured that they get the option of home voting," he added.

Out of 45 voters aged 85-plus and 33 PwDs who had opted for home voting, a total of 35 electors over 85 years and 27 PwDs have already exercised their franchise through home voting, he informed.

Among those who have exercised their right to vote under the home voting initiative by the district administration are Amarnath Rai, Rukmini Devi, Mangala Bala Kar, Mamata Kumari, Maina Devi, Nawab Khan, Azibun Nishan, Jubaida Khatun, Dhanwati Devi, Imtiaz Alam, Hakim Khan, Sanyukta Keshri, Keshri Mohan Kuila, Sushant Kalindi, Diwaker Patnaik, Shankar Ram Prajapati, and Nakul Singh.

Additionally, on May 13, many interior areas of Singhbhum will witness voting for the first time or after decades-long gaps, 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.

"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," Chaudhary added.

Despite improvements in the situation, West Singhbhum remains one of the worst left-wing extremism-hit districts in the country.

Polling stations such as Middle School, Nugdi, and Madhya Vidyalaya, Borero, will witness voting for the first time in 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 emphasised.

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 elaborated.

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

Sitting MP Geeta Kora, wife of former chief minister Madhu Koda, has been fielded from the seat by the BJP, while the INDIA bloc has fielded MLA Joba Manjhi.

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.

The Singhbhum Lok Sabha seat comprises 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 are scheduled to be held in four phases on May 13, 20, 25, and June 1.

In the 2019 general elections, the BJP had bagged 11 seats, while its ally AJSU had secured one. Both the JMM and Congress had won one seat each.

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Published 08 May 2024, 10:19 IST

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