Every vote counts: Polling staff afoot to HP’s remotest booth in Bara-Bhangal - Hindustan Times
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Every vote counts: Polling staff afoot to HP’s remotest booth in Bara-Bhangal

By, Dharamshala
May 30, 2024 09:40 AM IST

Two army choppers will airlift the polling party comprising of four people, one wireless operator, one booth level officer and a policeman with polling equipment from Yol Cantt

Tasked to set up the booth for 159 voters, who have decided to cast their ballot at an auxiliary polling booth set up at the state’s remotest village of Bara-Bhangal, a polling party will be airlifted from Yol Cantt, in Dharamshala on Thursday morning.

A reserve team, which will stay in Chamba, also left from Baijnath. (HT Photo)
A reserve team, which will stay in Chamba, also left from Baijnath. (HT Photo)

Two army choppers will airlift the polling party comprising of four people, one wireless operator, one booth level officer and a policeman with polling equipment from Yol Cantt. An auxiliary polling booth has been set up at the village, nestled deep in the Himalayas at an altitude of 2,575 metres, which is inaccessible by road.

Bara-Bhangal falls within the Baijanth subdivision of Kangra district. Located on the banks of Ravi in the interiors of the Himalayas, the village stays cut-off from the outside world for nearly six months during a year and it is solely accessible from May to October once Thamsar Pass is open. Most residents of the village, which has 469 voters, are nomadic shepherds and migrate to Bir in winter.

The district administration conducts a survey to determine the number of voters who will be in the village (Bara-Bhangal) and those who will be in Bir on the election day.

Kangra deputy commissioner (DC) Hemraj Bairwa said the Election Commission of India has granted permission to the state election department to set up an auxiliary polling station for polling station 99-Bara-Bhangal in the Baijnath assembly constituency of Kangra district, which has a total of 469 registered voters.

“The main polling station for Bara-Bhangal is located in Bir, where 310 voters will cast their ballots. However, an auxiliary polling station will be set up in the Bara-Bhangal as well, where 159 voters will vote.

Reserve team leaves from Baijnath

Meanwhile, a reserve team also left from Baijnath on Wednesday. They will be stationed at Holi in Chamba.

“Sometime due to bad weather conditions, the choppers are not able to fly, then our reserve team started their journey from Holi towards Bara-Bhangal to set up the polling booth there,” said SDM Baijnath, Devi Chand Thakur.

In total, 1,910 polling booths and one auxiliary polling station will be set up in the Kangra Chamba parliamentary constituency.

Given the absence of cellular network coverage in the area, election officials will rely on satellite phones for communication. All necessary equipment for setting up the polling booth, including Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), will be air-dispatched to the village.

In 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Bara-Bhangal polling booth recorded 100% voter turnout. Helicopters were used to airlift polling parties to the Bara-Bhangal polling booth during the previous elections. An 18-member polling party had at the time trekked 40 kilometres for three days to reach the remote interior after the helicopter could not fly due to bad weather.

The first polling booth was set up in the village during the 2007 assembly elections. Before 2007, the villagers used to trek 72 km through the 4,654-metre-high Thamsar Pass or travel more than 300 km via Chamba to reach Bir in Baijnath (Kangra district) to exercise their franchise.

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