They vote despite broken promises and hostile hills

S. Harpal Singh
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Cut off from the mainstream, tribal voters of the Metiguda hamlet in the Pangdi gram panchayat of Sirpur (U) mandal face an uphill task in exercising their franchise. Their remote habitation is in need of much-needed development.

The first oddity that strikes a visitor to this settlement of 150 Gond voters is lack of roads connecting it to any part of the mandal or, for that matter, the district headquarters, 95 km away. The voters are left with no option but to trek the dozen kilometres of hilly terrain to reach their polling station at Pangdi. The 30-km travel by road from Kerameri is prohibitively expensive for them.

Metiguda, with 30 tribal houses, is located on the eastern fringe of the mandal, jusy five km from the mandal headquarters of Kerameri. The terrain restricts cellphone coverage in the area, cutting off another means of communication.

“No election was different since the first time I voted in 1983,” recalls octogenarian Atram Mankubai, who heads one of the big families at Metiguda. “Having no money to travel in a vehicle, we always walked the distance to our polling station,” she says.

These people are a model for other voters in the diligence they show in exercising their franchise. Ms. Mankubai and many others in the village trekked through slippery hills in pelting rain to reach the polling station despite the two postponements of the sarpanch elections in last July-August.

“What we need is a proper road, at least to Kerameri, and drinking water as promised by politicians and parties over the years,” says Kumra Amba Rao, ward member from Metiguda. “If we get this basic development, there will be nobody who will mind the hardships of elections.”



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