Getting tribals to cross hills and a river to vote

Deployment of special boats and installing robust communication equipment enabled officials to register a record 79% polling at the 624 polling stations in Naxal-affected Chintoor Agency of East Godavari district.

The Agency, sharing the tri-State border with Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Telangana, went to polls in the third phase held on February 17.

Nearly 500 voters living in the cut-off area from the Godavari have been persuaded to exercise their franchise by arriving in the mainland by boats, and the initiative yielded results.

“The voters from the group of four gram panchayats — Edugurallapalli, Tummileru, Jeeduguppa and Koturu — in Chintoor Agency have come forward to cross the river by boats to arrive at the polling station at Pocharam on the other side of the river. We have ensured timely transportation and safety and they believed in our promise and exercised their franchise successfully,” said Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA-Chintoor) Project Officer A. Venkata Ramana.

At least 500 voters have cast their vote from the four panchayats by crossing the Godavari. Braving the hilly terrain, nearly 700 voters trekked the hills for above 10 km only to exercise their vote down the hills from across the Chintoor Agency.

“In many polling stations, the voters — mostly belonging to the Konda Reddy tribe — even trekked for two hours. All of them have been provided nutritious food and provided accommodation to take rest to resume their trek by evening,” Mr. Venkata Ramana told The Hindu.

In Tega panchayat, which shares border with Sukma district in Chhattisgarh, the polling staff had arrived at the polling station with high frequency communication sets and conducted the polling.

“The polling staff have been provided everything to face the challenges — new terrain, absence of communication and trek through the jungle — to guarantee an environment in which the polling was conducted with a huge turnout of voters,” Mr. Venkata Ramana claimed.

A total of five satellite phone sets and 25 Very High Frequency communication sets have been provided to the staff deployed in the Naxal-affected pockets.

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