Real-life ‘Newtons’ off to get votes from east frontier

Nima Tshering will have to stay far away from his home and family at least for a week. Tshering, an assistant engineer at the Department of Power in the Government of Arunachal Pradesh, has reached Vijaynagar – the remotest circle of the Changlang district of the frontier State. So have T Mali, Ajay Das and K Perme – all officials of the State Government. Photo courtesy Election Commission of India

Nima Tshering will have to stay far away from his home and family at least for a week. Tshering, an assistant engineer at the Department of Power in the Government of Arunachal Pradesh, has reached Vijaynagar – the remotest circle of the Changlang district of the frontier State. So have T Mali, Ajay Das and K Perme – all officials of the State Government.

Five more days are still to go before polling for the Lok Sabha elections will commence across India. But Tshering, Mali, Das, Perme and others are already out – on their way to take the world's greatest festival of democracy to the eastern flank of the country, much like “Newton” (Nutan) Kumar of the 2017 award-winning film “Newton”.

An Indian Air Force MI-17 chopper has already flown the real-life “Newtons” of Arunachal Pradesh to Vijaynagar, which is just about four kilometers away from India-Myanmar border and happens to be the easternmost human habitat of mainland India. They took with them enough Electronic Voting Machines and the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail devices to record the votes of the 3181 voters, who were expected to exercise their franchise in four polling stations – Ramnagar, Vijaynagar, Two-Hut and Gandhigram.

Arunachal Pradesh, which is at the core of India-China boundary dispute, will go to polls on April 11, both to elect its new state legislative assembly as well as its two representatives to the Lok Sabha.

Then why were the polling personnel sent out so early?

“It's raining in Arunachal Pradesh and weather often turns so inclement that it is not possible for the helicopter to make sorties to far-flung places,” Deputy Election Commissioner Chandra Bhushan Kumar said in New Delhi. “Had the chopper not been able to fly them from Miao to Vijaynagar by Friday, the polling personnel would have to trek for days through forest and mountainous terrain. It would have taken six days for them to trek the distance of 163 kilometers from Miao (where motorable road ends) to Vijaynagar.”  

The helicopter ride from Miao to Vijaynagar however only made it just a little easier for them. One of Tshering, Mali, Das and Perme will be designated as the Presiding Officer of the polling station in Gandhigram. And whoever will be chosen for the unenviable task will have to leave Vijaynagar on Tuesday to trek for eight hours to reach the remote polling station – just as Newton Kumar, the character essayed by actor Rajkumar Rao in “Newton”, did to get the votes of people living in a hamlet deep inside Maoist territory in Dandakaranya Forest of Chhattisgarh.

The officer chosen for the most difficult task will not have to walk alone though. He will have with him four polling officers, an attendant and two policemen. They will carry four sets of EVMs and VVPATs to record the votes of the 252 voters of Gandhigram.

The three other polling teams, however, will stay in Vijaynagar till Wednesday. They will start trekking only a day before the poll-day, as the polling stations, which they have been assigned to, are all one to four hours' trek away.

Indigenous Yobin (Lishu) people now account for 45% of the population in the 16 villages around Vijaynagar. The remaining 55% is made up of the retired paramilitary personnel and their families, who originally hail from other states but settled in the frontier state.

They all depend on civil and military aircraft for connectivity with rest of the country. When the polling will be over next Thursday; Tshering, Mali, Das and Parme too will have to trek back to Vijaynagar with the rest in their respective teams and wait for the helicopters to fly them back to Miao, of course if and when the weather god will smile.

They will be carrying with them, in the EVMs and the VVPATs, the mandate of the eastern frontier.

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Real-life ‘Newtons’ off to get votes from east frontier

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