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‘Powerless’ villages boycott bypoll

Ghatshila, July 1: Polling for the Jamshedpur by-election today was steady and peaceful in the red zone of Ghatshila, but not a single voter turned up from three villages, which snubbed the exercise in protest of lack of governance at their doorstep.

The people of Ghotiduba, Dubapani and Daldali villages under Daldali panchayat simply refused to vote in protest of the administrative “callousness” against them. They were especially miffed at the government’s inability to extend power supply in the area. Not a single vote was caste in booth No. 137, meant for the electors from the three villages.

“We are boycotting the poll as the government is not sympathetic towards us. Though the state power board fixed electricity poles in our village seven years earlier, there are no power transmission lines yet. Whenever we approach the authorities concerned, they send us back with empty assurances,” said Narayan Mahto, a resident of Daldali.

Another villager of Daldali, Ajay Parmanik, said, “We are deprived of electricity because of the government’s negligent attitude. In absence of the power, we cannot charge our cell phones, or use computers and watch television even if we wish to. Lack of electricity also takes its toll on students and patients.”

The circle officer of Jamshedpur block, Devendra Kumar, approached the disgruntled villagers and tried to persuade them to head for the polling booth. But until noon, the booth was empty save the election officers.

The residents of neighbouring Bamanghutu had also boycotted the bypoll in protest of non-electrification of their village. But JSEB general manager P.P. Porh promised the people that the village would be electrified soon under the Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Programme, prompting them to take part in the polling process with new zeal.

Despite the threat of Naxalites looming as always, villagers under the sub-division elsewhere queued up to vote, albeit with less enthusiasm than they had shown during the last Assembly elections in March 2010 and last year’s panchayat elections.

While polling was average in Galudih and Ghatshila townships, it was better in the interiors, especially in booths closer to the Bengal border.

At Baguria village under Kesharpur panchayat of Galudih, where JMM leader and former MP Sunil Mahto was gunned down by Maoists, polling was marginally high. By noon, the village recorded about 60 per cent polling with people trickling into the polling booth till the afternoon.

Likewise, at Narsingpur booth —the remotest polling booth under Ghatshila and situated merely 1km from Bandhwan police station area in Bengal’s Purulia district — 60 per cent of the electorate had voted by 1pm. As many as 884 voters were to vote at the booth. By 1pm, 550 votes had already been cast. Similar figures were registered at Kesharpur, Kashiabera, Mahuldih and Asanboni panchayat areas.

However, at Barabanki booth along NH-33, polling was very low, as voters were apprehensive of rebels. Of the 762 voters, only 62 had exercise their franchise till noon. At Barabanki, which falls under the Patamda Assembly segment bordering Ghatshila, the rebels had recently put up posters, warning villagers with dire consequences if they were found voting for either the Congress or the BJP.

When asked, Dinesh Giri, a voter, declined to reveal which candidate had his backing.

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