3 days trek, chopper service for conducting polling in Himachal’s remotest village - Hindustan Times
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3 days trek, chopper service for conducting polling in Himachal’s remotest village

By, Dharamshala
Apr 30, 2024 08:12 AM IST

The village, nestled deep in the Himalayas at an altitude of 2,575 metres, is inaccessible by road, necessitating the use of a chopper to transport the polling parties

It will take the polling staff nearly three days trek to reach the remotest village in Himachal Pradesh-- Bara-Bhangal, to set up an auxiliary polling booth for the villagers to cast their ballots.

The first polling booth was set up in the village during the 2007 assembly elections. (HT Photo)
The first polling booth was set up in the village during the 2007 assembly elections. (HT Photo)

The village, nestled deep in the Himalayas at an altitude of 2,575 metres, is inaccessible by road, necessitating the use of a chopper to transport the polling parties.

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Bara-Bhangal falls within the Baijanth subdivision of Kangra district. It is located on the banks of Ravi in the interiors of the Himalayas. The village stays cut-off from the outside world for nearly six months during a year and it’s solely accessible from May to October once Thamsar Pass is open. Most of the people in this village are nomad shepherds and migrate to Bir in winter. There are 468 voters in the village.

Given the absence of cellular network coverage in the area, election officials will rely on satellite phones for communication. All necessary equipment for setting up the polling booth, including Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), will be air-dispatched to the village.

Kangra deputy commissioner Hemraj Bairwa said we would conduct a survey before the election to determine the number of voters who will be in the village (Bara-Bhangal) and those who will be in Bir on the election day. “Subsequently, we will divide the electoral rolls, setting up auxiliary polling booths in Bara-Bhangal for those voters who wish to cast their ballots there,” he said.

We will request chopper services from the government to airlift our personnel and the equipment for polling, he added. “Supporting staff, such as booth-level officers, will depart few days before the polling day, embarking on a nearly three-day trek to reach the village. They will reach Rajgundah by road before trekking to the village,” Bairwah said.

In 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Bara-Bhangal polling booth recorded 100% voter turnout. Helicopters were used to airlift polling parties to the Bara-Bhangal polling booth during the previous elections.

In 2019, an 18-member polling party trekked 40 kilometres for three days to reach the remote interior after the helicopter could not fly due to bad weather.

The first polling booth was set up in the village during the 2007 assembly elections. Before 2007, the villagers used to trek 72 km through the 4,654-metre-high Thamsar Pass or travel more than 300 km via Chamba to reach Bir in Baijnath (Kangra district) to exercise their franchise.

Electors in Bada-Bhangal boycotted the general elections in 2009 due to non-fulfilment of their demand to exclude the village from the sanctuary area. They exercised their vote in the 2012 assembly elections.

The election for the four Lok Sabha seats in Himachal Pradesh will be held in the last phase on June 1.

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