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Drones keep surveillance during polls in Odisha

Eye in the sky: Drones for aerial surveillance in Maoist-infested Kalimela block being tested at Malkangiri.

Eye in the sky: Drones for aerial surveillance in Maoist-infested Kalimela block being tested at Malkangiri.

For the first time, unmanned aerial vehicles or drones were used for surveillance of polling booths in the Maoist-infested Malkangiri district during the fourth phase of pachayat polls in the State on Sunday.

Maoists threats

Due to Maoists threats, tribal inhabitants of Kalimela block had not dared to vote in the past several elections, including the panchayat polls in 2012, and the Assembly and the Lok Sabha polls in 2013. According to inhabitants of Bodigeta panchayat, most of them have not dared to defy the diktat of the naxalites in the past 15 years.

Hypersensitive booths

Drones fitted with high-resolution cameras kept watch on regions around several hypersensitive booths in the Maoist-threat prone panchayats like Bodigeta, Telarai, Gomphakonda etc of Kalimela block of the district, said Malkangiri Superintendent of Police (SP) Mitrabhanu Mohapatra.

Footage from the drones is immediately transferred live to the special control room at Malkangiri district headquarter for analysis, monitoring and action. Internet and conventional communication network do not work properly in the Maoist-infested area of Balimela reservoir where these drones were used for surveillance.

“We used our police radio communication network for live data transfer from drones to the control room,” said Mr. Mohapatra.

Pilot project

Citing security reasons, Mr. Mohapatra refused to reveal the number of drones used for surveillance of polling booths in Malkangiri district on Sunday. But he added that it was part of a pilot project related to the continuing anti-Maoist operations in the district bordering the Maoist-infested regions of Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

Polling was held in 23 panchayats under the three zilla parishad zones of Kalimela block on Sunday. Around 175 booths were identified as sensitive and 53 as hyper-sensitive.

Remote jungle terrain

Flying at a height of 300 to 500 metres, the drones were able to provide detailed information about movements in the remote jungle terrain around the remote hypersensitive booths in Maoist-infested regions.

Maoists had threatened to kill candidates and also chop off the thumbs of voters participating in the panchayat elections. In some parts of the cut-off area, panchayat poll had to be deferred due to the Maoist threat.

But drones aided the democratic election process in the Maoist-infested areas of Kalimela block like Borigeta and Marigeta on Sunday.

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Printable version | May 29, 2022 5:39:06 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/Drones-keep-surveillance-during-polls-in-Odisha/article17331288.ece