Election officials in West Bengal are gearing up for an altogether different kind of battle with boats, HAM radios and power generating equipment as the world’s largest mangrove, the Sundarbans, votes on Sunday.
District officials of the North and South 24-Parganas have made arrangements for their movement in the delta spanning over a sprawling area with nearly 43.28 lakh voters. The Sundarbans also expands into Bangladesh.
“Sundarban region is spread across 17 Assembly constituencies in the districts of North and South 24 Parganas,” Sundarban Affairs Minister Manturam Pakhira told IANS.
Bengal’s 54 inhabited and 48 forested islands of the archipelago falls under three Lok Sabha constituencies — Mathurapur, Jaynagar and Basirhat.
Assembly segments such as Gosaba, Patharpratima and Kultoli of South 24 Parganas are also part of the Sundarban region which, as per a 2014 census, is home to 74 endangered Royal Bengal Tigers.
District officials though explained that none of the polling stations is situated in the core region, hence there is no fear of tiger attacks.
“To address connectivity issues we are using HAM (amateur) radio systems and walkie talkies. For the movement of the poll officials in 178 island polling stations we have a fleet of boats ready,” Antara Acharya, District Magistrate of North 24-Parganas, told IANS.
Traditional as well as mechanised boats will be used.
Apart from the hustings, the officials have taken up the opportunity to create awareness among the voters on environmental issues like soil erosion.
The voters’ awareness programme was done very creatively. “We tried to make it more colourful and visited the ghats (banks) with EVMs,” said one official.
Special measures have been taken to safeguard the environment of the Unesco World Heritage Site. “All the polling material are either made of paper or jute. We are not using plastics.”
With polling continuing till sunset, and some of these places lacking electricity, measures have been taken to ensure uninterrupted power supply.
Four polling stations in Mathurapur will operate with generators. The officials will also carry charged emergency lights.
Mostly schools and Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) centres are being used for the process and they are all ‘pucca’ structures and the poll personnel will move along with security.
Trinamool’s sitting MPs Pratima Mondal and C.M. Jatua will defend their seats in Jaynagar and Mathurapur constituencies respectively.
In Basirhat, the state’s ruling party has pitched debutant Nusrat Jahan, a Bengali actress, who will face BJP’s Sayantan Basu.
Along with these three seats, six others in West Bengal will go to the polls in the seventh and final phase of the Lok Sabha elections. The counting will take place on May 23.