Former Naxalite bastion Malkangiri ready to write a new chapter in this Lok Sabha elections

Malkangiri: Moving on from those dark days when it used to be the epicenter of Left Wing Extremism (LWE), Swabhiman Anchal in Chitrakonda block of Malkangiri district of Odisha will write a new chapter in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. Locals will be getting their fingers inked for the first time in many years. A clear indication of how things have changed on the ground in the former Naxalite bastion is that the voting juggernaut has reached the block, compared to previous years when voting arrangements were made in nearby BSF camps. The visible changes on the ground also testify to the empowerment of local people and the State’s efforts to restore normalcy and re-establish the rule of law in the region. Thirty new polling stations have been set up for the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in the villages of nine gram panchayats of Swabhiman Anchal, which is not like the days when Naxalites had dominance in this area. These elections mark a major step forward not only in terms of restoration of normalcy in the region but also in giving a sense of security to the local people and enabling them to elect their representatives democratically. Ahead of polling day, May 13, there is a wave of joy in the area and excitement and hope are clearly visible on the faces of first-time voters. This will be the first time in a decade that people of Swabhiman area will exercise their franchise without any fear. Earlier, voting material had to be transported on helicopters, electronic voting machines (EVMs) were transported near BSF camps amid tight security. However, marking a major change from previous years, locals will be lining up in large numbers outside the booths at Swabhiman Village under tight security cover. In 2019, at least 12 booths in Swabhiman Anchal recorded zero polling as Naxalites threatened to harm voters who dared to reject their boycott call. In the last general elections in 2014, Maoists had captured a polling booth, following which the Election Commission (EC) had to order re-polling. However, no one turned up for re-polling. Speaking to ANI, Malkangiri SP Nitish Wadhwani said that with the significant improvement in the law and order situation, the fear of Naxalites has reduced in the area. The SP said that no Naxalite activity has been reported in this area in the last one and a half year. Expanding the measures taken in collaboration with the police and BSF to boost security in the area, including regular patrolling and searches in areas prone to attacks to ensure free and fair polling. “With the cooperation of the local people, this area, which was the epicenter of Naxalite activity in previous years, is now incident-free. Since 2018, several developments have been undertaken in the area to boost public infrastructure, especially roads and construction Projects have been implemented Apart from the steps to enhance security in schools, we can assure that 18-20 off-steam operations will be conducted here a day before the elections, although the Naxalite threat has not been completely removed, but the security has been improved. The situation is getting better every day,” he said. Meanwhile, Malkangiri Collector and District Magistrate Sachin Pawar also shared details of the arrangements made to ensure free and fair voting in the erstwhile Naxal area. “For the first time in many years, the people of Malkangiri will vote in their own villages. 30 Shakhi (all women) booths have been set up in Malkangiri district and two PWD booths have also been put together. At the Shakhi booths we have deployed women polling personnel. Arrangements have been made for the women to wear costumes related to the Bonda tribe as they warmly welcome the voters. The Collector also urged people to cast their votes early, especially in the first part of the day, as the temperature is likely to rise after that. The Collector said, “As per the IMD (India Meteorological Department) forecast, the maximum temperature on May 13 could be around 39 degrees Celsius. Therefore, I would urge people to vote early, preferably in the first part of the day. ” He said, “To combat the prevalent heatwave, we have made special arrangements including chilled water and ORS (oral rehydration solution) in every booth. Surrounded by water bodies on three sides and rugged terrain on the other, the area is virtually ” Inaccessible. About 150 villages in the Chitrakonda region, including Swabhiman Anchal, spread over about 373 sq km in South Malkangiri district of Odisha, can be reached only by boat. This area was previously known as the Cut-Off area. Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Odisha are being held simultaneously in four phases – from May 13 to June 1, with the counting of votes taking place on June 4. In 2019, Biju Janata Dal (BJD) won 112 out of 146 assembly seats, while BJP won 23 and Congress won 9.

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