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Poll staff fly to remote village for 70 voters

The Election Commission of India has airlifted a polling party to the remote Bara Bhanghal village of Kangra valley, where a polling booth has been set up for nearly 70 voters. On foot, one has to cross 16,000-ft high Thamsar pass to reach the village.

There are 345 registered voters in Bara Bhangal, but sources say since most people migrate to the lower areas with the change of weather, there would be around 70 voters present there right now. Situated at a height of 7,700 ft in the Dhauladhar and Pir Panjal ranges of the Himalayas, Bara Bhangal is one of the remotest villages of the state.

The first polling booth was set up in the village during the 2007 Assembly election. The voters here did not participate in the electoral process in 2009 as their demand to exclude the village from the sanctuary area was not fulfilled. They had, however, voted in all the elections after 2012, including the Assembly and Lok Sabha polls.

For the past five years, the Election Commission had been using helicopters to airlift polling parties to the Bara Bhangal polling booth. Before 2007, the villagers used to trek 72-km through the Thamsar Pass or had to travel more than 300 km via Chamba to reach Bir in Baijnath to exercise their franchise.

Most people in the village are shepherds and migrate to Bir in winter. However, some stay put in the village, braving the harsh weather. During summer, a large number of shepherds, who take their livestock across the Dhauladhars for grazing, use Bara Bhangal as a halting point. Last year, 2,000 shepherds had got trapped in Bara Bhangal due to heavy snow at the Thamsar Pass.

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