Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): Voting in the Naxal-affected districts of Balaghat, Dindori and Mandla has always been a sensitive matter. This time, however, these districts have kept the target of surpassing the previous voting percentage. Administration in these districts has taken many innovative steps in regard.
Balaghat Collector Dr Girish Kumar told Free Press that there are three assembly constituencies which are Naxal-hit in the district—Paraswada, Lanjhi and Baihar. A total of 36 new polling booths will be opened in the deep forest areas to keep the voters at comfort. These booths have 50 to 450 voters.
The bordering area with Chhattisgarh, Lanji, has always been good in terms of voting. “This time we have planned to increase the voting percentage to 85 %,” he said. SVEEP activities in the backward class dominated villages are being conducted regularly, the collector said, adding that the major challenge is in urban areas, particularly the industrial belt where voting percentage used to be less. Work is being done to increase the voting percentage there, he said.
Kumar further said that on one hand, new booths were being made and on the other adequate security forces had been demanded from the Election Commission. Meanwhile, Dindori Collector Vikas Mishra told Free Press that as part of innovative steps, measures are being taken to connect with tribals under the shadow of their culture and language etc.
A local radio “Vanya” has been started in Baiga and Gondi language to spread awareness among the tribals. Along with this, festivals are being used to get in touch with the tribals and to spread the message of voting. For instance, the upcoming festival of Dussehra and Diwali will be used to get in touch with the tribals and to appeal to them to take part in voting in large numbers.
He said that in some tribal communities, it is the women who head the families. Hence, efforts are underway to contact women self-help groups (SHGs) to have communication over the voter awareness initiative. Along with this, young boys and girls also act as ambassadors to disseminate the message of voter awareness. This time, a target has been set to achieve at least 80 percent voting in Dindori.
Moreover, the Chief Electoral Officer has also geared up to ensure smooth voting in these areas. Three helicopters and an air ambulance have been demanded for these districts in case of any eventuality.