TAMIL NADU

Additional steps to conduct elections in hostile terrains

DHARMAPURI, APRIL 24. Even as the Dharmapuri district administration is gearing itself to conducting the May 10 Lok Sabha elections, reaching poll materials (EVMs, battery, electoral rolls and other infrastructure) and the conduct of elections in at least half-a-dozen polling stations in hostile terrains may prove an uphill task for the official machinery.

M.A. Siddique, Returning Officer for Dharmapuri constituency and Collector, told The Hindu the official machinery was going an extra mile to ensure that the process was carried out smoothly in these hilly and hostile terrains. He said the materials and the personnel had to be ferried across the Cauvery to reach a polling station at Emenur near Kolathur in Mettur of Salem district. The Mettur Assembly segment comes under the Dharmapuri parliamentary constituency, he said.

The officials would have to reach Kolathur near Mettur and use the "Coracles" for crossing the river and then would have to trek for two km. The polling station would have heavy security since it had been identified as a forest brigand Veerappan-infested pocket.

Similarly, reaching two polling stations on Vathalmalai, coming under the Morappur Assembly segment, and the other under the Dharmapuri Assembly segment is again an uphill task. The officials would have to trek for two km with the polling materials. One polling station would have to be accessed from Morappur while the other from Dharmapuri. Similarly, polling stations located at Kotturmalai, Erimalai near Belrampatti in the Pennagaram Assembly segment are again in difficult terrain. These polling stations would account for a minimum of 1,000 voters each, majority of them are tribals, said Mr. Siddique.

Polling personnel would be provided with all logistics including foolproof security. Priority would be accorded in despatching the teams and polling materials to these locations. They would be the first to leave the district headquarters on May 9.

Each of the polling stations in the above-mentioned locations have been classified under a single zone and for every polling station there would be spare EVMs, battery and standby logistics to ensure that polling took place without a hitch.

Police sources, on condition of anonymity, pointed out that adequate precautions were being taken with regard to security for sensitive polling stations. In all, 35 polling stations in and around Naickenkottai areas have been identified as vulnerable to naxal menace. Similarly, 15 polling stations in and around Hogenakkal in the Pennagaram Assembly segment, prone to Veerappan movement, have been identified as sensitive. The district accounted for 100 polling stations identified as communally and politically hypersensitive.

The focus was on taking extra care in smaller Dalit pockets in non-Dalit areas. The administration was looking to history and incidents of poll-related clashes while identifying trouble-prone pockets. These pockets might get Central para-military forces on the polling day, the sources said.

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