AROUND 40 students at Tarmaliya village in Pardi taluka of Valsad district, which falls in Kaprada Assembly constituency, boycotted the by-elections Tuesday for want of a mobile tower. In the absence of a mobile tower, the students claimed, they had to travel around three kilometres to avail Internet connection, essential for attending classes online during the coronavirus pandemic.
Twenty-six villages in Pardi taluka fall under the Kaprada Assembly seat. Tarmaliya, with around 700 voters, is located in the most interior parts of the constituency.
Lack of basic amenities, including drinking water and electricity, were also flagged by residents of Jummavadi and New Navlakhi localities in Morbi district, as they boycotted the bypolls in the constituency. The local residents said the state government had failed to prevent flood in the areas located near Navlakhi port, or meet their demand to declare the settlement a panchayat.
Suresh Padvi, a member of Tarmaliya Yuvak Mandal that led the boycott in the Kaprada seat, said, “We have boycotted the by-elections over our demand for a mobile tower in the village. Currently, students are attending classes online. In absence of a mobile tower, they are unable to attend the classes regularly… Some students have to travel as far as 3 km to neighbouring villages for a network connection, at times post sundown, just to download PDF files of their syllabus.” The village is located around nine km from Pardi taluka headquarters.
Pratik Patel, another villager, said an entire academic year of students was wasted as no one could attend classes during the lockdown and in absence of mobile network during the unlock period. He also pointed out a bridge that local residents use to reach neighbouring villages was also in a “pathetic” and “dangerous” condition. “We had submitted several complaints to the Pardi taluka panchayat but till date, no work has been done. During medical emergencies, villagers face several problems to take patients across the bridge to government and private hospitals in neighbouring villages. The local BJP leaders had given us hope that they will work on these demands.”
Valsad BJP MP Dr K C Patel and the party’s MLA from Pardi seat Kanubhai Desai Tuesday reached Tarmaliya village in a bid to convince the village youths to vote but in vain. Students, meanwhile, submitted their demand for installation for a mobile tower to the two leaders.
Located around two km from the Navlakhi port, Jummavadi is a settlement of around 1,200 fishermen and has 460 registered voters. A little away, New Navlakhi, a settlement of around 700 labourers located around 12 km from the port, has 303 voters. Residents of both the settlements (under Morbi Assembly constituency) boycotted the polling Tuesday.
“Post the 1998 cyclone, we fishermen were relocated out of the Navlakhi port area and settled at Jummavadi. But 21 years on, our settlement has no supply of power or drinking water. We are forced to purchase drinking water at Rs 60 per barrel. Politicians come to us before elections and promise to provide these basic amenities, but nothing has changed. After we announced a boycott today, the Taluka Development Officer (TDO) of Morbi reached out and asked us to vote while assuring that our demands would be met. But we want our voice to be heard at the highest level,” Amad Buchad, a leader of the fishermen settlers at Jummavadi said.
Ismile Kacha, a shop owner at New Navlakhi, which had come into existence post 2001 earthquake, said a number of houses in the area got flooded every monsoon due to an overflowing local check dam. “Despite representations, nothing has happened nor has our demand of declaring New Navlakhi an independent village panchayat been met,” he said.
Morbi District Collector J B Patel, who is also the District Electoral Officer, said they tried to persuade residents of the two settlements to exercise their franchise. “We had set up polling booths at Lavanpur and Bodaki villages for voters of Jummavadi and New Navlakhi, respectively. But residents of these two localities were demanding their settlements be declared independent village panchayats. Also facing problems of waterlogging during monsoons, the villagers boycotted the bypolls. We sent the Morbi TDO and police officers with an assurance that the Collector’s office will resolve their issues. But they remained adamant. We have report it to the EC,” Patel said. Only one vote was cast in the two polling stations, he said.
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