The Telegraph
Saturday , December 12 , 2009
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fear in heart, but duty in mind
- POll officials to be airdropped in rebel pockets

Jamshedpur, Dec. 11: Fear was writ large on the faces of polling officials as the last batch fanned out to designated clusters from Jamshedpur Co-operative College grounds on the eve of the fourth phase.

The three Assembly constituencies of Baharagora, Ghatshila and Potka under East Singhbhum are Maoist strongholds and polling parties were despatched by noon to ensure that they reach their destinations before dusk.

Keeping the safety aspect in mind, a section of polling officials will be airdropped in rebel zones while the rest will reach their clusters on dumpers loaded with sand.

Though dumpers cannot provide foolproof security against landmines, they help cushion the blow.

“It is scary to go on poll duty in Naxalite-hit areas. We have been advised to reach our destinations before evening and travel only on metalled roads where landmine cannot be planted. All polling parties have been told to travel on foot while crossing any non-metalled road,” said Awdhesh Prasad, a poll official posted in Baharagora constituency.

Two choppers have been made available to the district administration to ferry the officials. The choppers will also be used for air surveillance tomorrow.

Around 390 of the 756 polling booths, located in the three constituencies, have been identified as sensitive because of Maoist presence. As many as 212 booths have been marked as vulnerable and extra security measures have been taken there.

“It’s for the first time that I have been deployed on poll duty. My family members were not letting me come as I have been posted at a Naxalite-hit area. But I cannot help,” said Atmaram Mahato, a teacher deputed at Ghatshila.

The administration has constituted 74 clusters in the three constituencies where polling officials will stay before going to their respective booths in the morning.

“We have sent around 100 dumpers to Naxalite strongholds. Altogether 350 vehicles have been used for ferrying polling officials from Jamshedpur Co-operative College to the clusters. There is no dearth of vehicle for the fourth phase of elections,” said an official at the district vehicle cell. As the number of candidates in Potka has gone up to 20, the administration has been forced to use two balloting units in the EVMs. Around 800 EVMs are being used in the fourth round.

The administration has deployed 3,024 polling personnel. Besides, 107 officials have been given the power of sector magistrates to ensure free and fair polling in their respective areas. Micro-observers have been deployed at 36 critical booths while digital cameras have been put in place at 41 polling stations.

Superintendent of police Naveen Kumar Singh said 100 companies of paramilitary force and state police have been deployed.

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