Pirates add to riverbed voters' woes in Mahishi
Being an election officer at Mahishi constituency in Saharsa district means taking the voting machine in a wooden boat fitted with an indigenously built engine to the voter — and hoping river pirates don't strike. Srinand Jha reports. Mahishi's taleindia Updated: Oct 20, 2010 01:54 IST
Being an election officer at Mahishi constituency in Saharsa district means taking the voting machine in a wooden boat fitted with an indigenously built engine to the voter — and hoping river pirates don't strike.
The assembly constituency at the eastern embankment of the Kosi River in east-central Bihar buzzes with activity: electronic voting machines are stacked under a tree, poll officers arrive in their vehicles and security personnel inspect the area.
Mahishi's 150,000 voters live in 51 villages on the riverbed of an eight-kilometre stretch between Kosi's eastern and western embankments.
Forty-eight hours ahead of the polling date, election officers are being dispatched to polling centers in the wooden boats.
"Between today (Monday) and tomorrow (Tuesday), approximately 700 poll officers will be dispatched by 45 boats from 28 places," Saharsa district magistrate R Lakshmanan said.
"One hundred and forty-five mobile booths are being carted to those inaccessible areas."
Gangs of river pirates who prevent public distribution system consignments from reaching the riverbed villages also threaten voters.
"In past elections, they (pirates) have intimidated villagers and captured booths," Lakshmanan said.
"We are taking no chances this time."
Central paramilitary forces, policemen and units of the National Disaster Relief Force have been deployed, he said.
Life's tough for the villagers living by the river.
"We have no roads, schools or dispensaries," said Dukhi Das of Boharwa village.
"Schemes like the Indira Awas Yojna do not reach us."
Villagers travel up to 10 km to take their agricultural produce to upland areas on boats.
"The pirates often rob us of our crops and earnings while the state administration sits silently," said villager Ram Baran Yadav.
"We live under constant fear."