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Himachal polls-2017: EC ropes in choppers, boats, mules to ferry poll material

In some stations, polling parties will have to trek more than 20 km. After all, every vote counts in an electoral democracy.

assembly elections Updated: Nov 08, 2017 16:22 IST
Saurabh Chauhan
Saurabh Chauhan
Hindustan Times, Shimla
Himachal Pradesh Assembly election 2017,Himachal assembly polls 2017,Prem Kumar Dhumal
An employee on election duty checking electronic voting machines (EVM) before leaving for the poling station in Mandi on Tuesday. (Birbal Sharma/HT)

As the poll frenzy in Himachal Pradesh reaches its crescendo, the election commission too is in no mood to leave no stone unturned in its attempt to ensure a healthy turnout.

To make the otherwise inaccessible polling booths accessible, the poll body will make use of helicopters, boats, mules and porters to transport electronic voting machines in over two dozen polling stations. Roads are alien to all of them. In some stations, polling parties will have to trek more than 20 km. After all, every vote counts in an electoral democracy.

Travelling by boats is not new for the villagers, as children here use them daily to reach their school in Dhameta village, across the Pong Dam.

Choppers for Bara-Banghal

Helicopters will ferry election material to the far-flung village of Bara-Banghal in Kangra district. The village is home to 345 voters.

It was in 2007 that a polling station was set up for the first time in Bara-Banghal. Most of the villagers here are from the Gaddi tribe of shepherds. As winter dawns upon the Himalayan heights, the tribe migrates to lower altitudes around the towns of Baijnath and Palampur.

At present, most of the inhabitants have moved out, but some are staying back. The village remains cutoff from the rest of the word due to snowfall at the Thamsar Pass (4,654 m above the sea level). Villagers have to trek for more than 72 kilometers to reach Baijnath. The road journey via Bharmaur takes nearly eight hours for them to reach Palampur.

Boats for the island village

To facilitate polling in the island village of Sath-Kuthera, the election commission has arranged boats to ferry election material, along with the seven-member polling party. This village has 95 voters and boats are the only means to reach it. Polling booth was set here for the first time during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

However, travelling by boats is not new for the villagers, as children here use them daily to reach their school in Dhameta village, across the Pong Dam.

Too far a distance

In Shimla district, Kasha polling booth is still inaccessible by roads and the polling party will have to trek for 24 km. They have been provided with satellite telephones for faster communication. Similarly, Gaggal village in Kangra district’s Sulah assembly segment is 25 km away from the road. In Kullu district, the polling party will have to trek 20 km to reach Shakti polling booth in Banjar assembly segment. Meanwhile, in Chamba district, the polling parties will have to trek 16 km to reach the booths in Fanotha and Groundi.

Mules, porters also in service

There are 24 polling booths in the state, reaching where mandates at least a five kilometers walk. District administrations in Shimla, Lahaul-Spiti, Kinnaur and Chamba have arranged porters and mules to carry the polling material.

Chief electoral officer Pushpendra Rajput said, “Adequate arrangements are in place for the polling day. Polling parties have been dispatched for the booths in far-flung areas, while other will be dispatched on Wednesday.”

First Published: Nov 08, 2017 16:22 IST