Maoist-hit areas of Jharkhand’s Singhbhum to vote for first-time – India TV

Lok Sabha elections 2024
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Lok Sabha Elections 2024:  Many remote areas within the Maoist stronghold of Singhbhum Lok Sabha constituency in Jharkhand,  on May 13, will experience voting for the first time in years, or after a decades-long gap. This effort seeks to enable voting for inhabitants residing in Saranda, known as Asia’s thickest Sal forest. Polling teams and supplies will be airlifted by helicopters to facilitate voting for residents. 

A total of 118 remote polling stations will be established, with personnel and supplies being dropped from helicopters to facilitate the voting process.

“We are committed to ensuring that no voter is left out… we have identified many areas where polling will be conducted for the first time or after nearly two decades as these locations were badly affected by Maoist insurgency,” West Singhbhum Deputy Commissioner cum District Election Officer Kuldeep Chaudhary told PTI.

118 booths identified for air dropping

Despite signs of improvement, West Singhbhum continues to be one of the most severely affected districts by left-wing extremism in the country. Last year alone, it recorded 46 incidents related to Maoist activity, leading to 22 fatalities. Notably, polling stations like Middle School in Nugdi and Madhya Vidyalaya in Borero will witness voting for the first time in this election, the District Election Officer said.

“As many as 118 booths in difficult locations such as Robokera, Binj, Thalkobad, Jaraikela, Roam, Rengrahatu, Hansabeda and Chhotanagra have been identified for air dropping. In some areas, polling parties will have to walk for 4-5 km. We are ensuring that no area remains untouched this time,” Chaudhary said.

Thalkobad, along with approximately two dozen other villages, was previously referred to as “liberated zones.” However, through extensive operations led by security forces, including Operation Anaconda, the administration managed to establish its presence in the area. A total of 15 new security force camps have been set up in the region as a result.

“Besides helicopters, polling parties will travel through trains and roads. As many as 121 teams will be dispatched by trains, for which dry runs have been conducted. Teams on foot have to reach cluster points, and then go to polling stations. By 5.30 am on the polling date, all teams must reach the stations to conduct mock polling,” he said.

Electors over 85 years of age can vote from home

He said the constituency boasts over 62 voters who are over 100 years old. Among them is Walter Lakra from the Nandpur area in Manoharpur police station, who informed the District Election Officer that he wouldn’t be able to walk to the polling booth. Chaudhary assured him that he would have the opportunity to cast his vote from the comfort of his doorstep.

He felicitated 100-year-old Lakra and also met some electors over 85 years of age and persons with disabilities, urging them to take benefits of home voting if they faced difficulties in reaching polling booths. “For these 62 voters, and 3,909 electors aged above 85 years, besides 13,703 persons with disabilities, we have ensured that they get the option of home voting,” he said.

The administration is resorting to innovative ways, including putting up a giant sky balloon at a height of 100 feet, and running 1,284 ‘Chunav Pathshala’ under the Systematic Voter’s Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) to make people aware of the need to exercise their franchise.

Singhbhum has 14.32 lakh voters

Singhbhum, a reserved constituency for Scheduled Tribes, comprises 14.32 lakh voters, with 7.27 lakh being women.

Geeta Kora, the incumbent MP and spouse of former chief minister Madhu Koda, has been nominated by the BJP for this seat. Kora, who previously represented the Congress in the Lok Sabha from Jharkhand, recently switched allegiance to the BJP. Candidates from the I.N.D.I.A bloc are yet to be announced for this constituency.

Singhbhum Lok Sabha seat encompasses six assembly constituencies: Seraikela, Chaibasa, Majhganon, Jagnathpur, Manoharpur, and Chakradharpur. While Seraikela is located in the Seraikela-Kharsawan district, the remaining segments fall within West Singhbhum district.

The Lok Sabha elections in Jharkhand are scheduled to take place in four phases on May 13, 20, 25, and June 1.

In the 2019 general elections, the BJP won 11 seats, with its ally AJSU securing one. The JMM and Congress each won one seat.

(With PTI inputs)

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