Conducting elections in Himachal Pradesh has always been a daunting task for the Election Commission, with the vagaries of the weather not the only challenge. Polling parties still have to walk long distances to reach the polling booths, as 74 polling booths still lack road connectivity.
Till a few years ago, the electors of Bada Bhangal, a remote village in the Baijnath assembly constituency, had to undertake an arduous journey to cast their votes. The villagers had to travel more than 300 km or walk 65 km to cross the mighty Thamsar Pass to reach their polling station in Baijnath. In 2007, the Election Commission for the first time set up a booth in the village and polling parties were ferried by helicopters. The regulatory body had abolished the station this time, but changed its decision after the issue caught media attention.
Besides, polling parties have to walk nearly 25 km to reach Shakti, a booth catering to 59 electors in the Banjar assembly segments in Kullu district.
Chasak Baturi, a polling booth in the remote Bharmour assembly segment, has always been a nightmare for the polling staff. The station is located 18 km uphill from the main road, and the staff has to walk nearly 10 hours to reach the polling station, since there is a steep climb. Also, there is no mobile or telephone connectivity in the village. Last time, the polling parties were provided satellite phones.
It is said the villagers had not seen the outside world till 1982. In 1982, the villagers tasted bananas and mangoes for the first time. “It is quite a herculean task to trek 18 km uphill to reach this village. I was surprised when the villagers, of whom many are now educated, explained about their remoteness,” said a government official currently posted in Bharmour in Chamba district.
Kasha in the Rampur assembly segment is another remote polling station. While a road is being constructed to link this village to the rest of the world, polling parties still have to walk nearly 20 km.
The remote village caught public attention in the late eighties when a few villagers and the cattle lost their vision, and the villagers talked about stones emanating a green light that shone bright in the night. While the villagers believed that some evil forces became active at night, geological findings revealed that the area around the village had rich uranium deposits. Kasha village has nearly 600 electors today.
Swar, a polling station in Mandi’s Chuhar valley, is located at a distance of 12 km from the road. The valley is notorious for illegal opium cultivation.
Polling parties still have to walk 15 km to reach the Charang and Shrigarcha stations.