Elephants, bullock carts and boats in Assam polls

April 21st, 2009 - 4:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, April 21 (IANS) Using elephants, bullock carts and boats to reach polling stations, election officials in Assam Tuesday set in motion the process of conducting the second and final phase of voting in 11 of the 14 parliamentary seats in the state.
“We have kept two tamed elephants ready to carry polling personnel and electronic voting machines to a few polling stations in case there are heavy rains,” R. Majumdar, Assam’s additional chief electoral officer, told IANS.

Elections are to be held in the parliamentary seats of Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Kaliabor, Nagaon, Tezpur, Lakhimpur, Guwahati, Mangaldoi, Barpeta, Dhubri, and Kokrajhar.

Earlier, elections in the first phase were held in the three parliamentary seats of Silchar, Karimganj, and Autonomous District in Assam April 16 with heavy polling recorded.

An estimated 14.73 million voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in round two with 121 candidates in the fray.

“In northern Sonitpur district, we have kept on standby two bullock carts to transport poll materials as the roads leading to a few polling stations are not in good shape,” the official said.

Likewise, about 67 boats would be used to ferry officials and polling material in voting stations located on remote sandbars along the Brahmaputra river.

“Already, the process has begun with polling personnel on their way to their respective stations for conducting the vote,” Mazumdar said.

“The first big challenge for our officials is to reach the voting stations on time and conduct the vote, the second biggest challenge is to return to the nearest district headquarter with the voting machines safely.”

Voting would be conducted in 18,829 polling stations of which 440 are categorised as hyper-sensitive, and 2,975 as very sensitive - threats from separatists being the main consideration.

A massive security alert has been sounded and an estimated 50,000 police and paramilitary troopers deployed across the state for the polls.

“Security measures have been tightened and deployments made according to the Election Commission guidelines,” Assam police chief G.M. Srivastava said.

“We hope the elections would pass off peacefully,” Srivastava said.

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