Officials on their toes as Naxal-hit panchayats go to polls on Feb. 17

The authorities are on their toes as the Naxal-affected tribal panchayats in East Godavari district are going to elections during the third phase on February 17, even as elaborate security arrangements have been made to prevent any untoward incident.

As many as 2.60 lakh voters will exercise their franchise during the elections to be held in the challenging terrain as a considerable part of it does not have access to telecommunication network. However, a group of habitations in the Papikonda National Park would be a testing field.

Of the 186 panchayats that are scheduled to go to election in the third phase in the Rampachodavaram and Yetapaka revenue divisions, 78 are affected by Naxal activities.

In total, 1,734 polling centres have been set up, enabling the voters to exercise their franchise amid tight security in 11 mandals in the Agency area.

As the areas share border with the three States—Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Telangana—, the Andhra Pradesh police do not want to take any chance.

Combing operations

The State police have sought help from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) which has already completed combing operations in the strategic areas in the Agency, averting any untoward incident during the transportation of the polling material. East Godavari SP Adnan Nayeem Asmi said that combing operations have been completed in the areas affected by the left-wing extremist activities.

“Forces have been posted in the strategic areas. We are prepared to complete the counting process during the day time itself, without leaving any chance to any disruptions at any stage of polling. Preparations are also being made to ensure completion of the counting by 5 p.m.,” Mr. Asmi told The Hindu.

The SP said a good number of security personnel have been deployed along the inter-State border. However, the detailed security strategy and size of the deployment can not be revealed for obvious reasons, he said.

Polling time reduced

Meanwhile, the time of polling has been reduced by two hours in the Agency. “It will help ensure a peaceful election. Polling will be conducted between 6.30 a.m. and 1.30 a.m.,” he said.

East Godavari Collector D. Muralidhar Reddy said that 5,300 non-local polling staff would be sent to the Agency a day before the polling.

“At least 130 special bus services will drop the polling staff at their destinations on 65 routes in the Agency. A day has been reserved for the polling staff to collect material and reach the polling stations on time,” he said.

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