With no access to roads or bridges, nearly 4,500 villagers from six villages on Monday made a trip across the Indravati river to vote.
The villagers make the trip often, to get medicines, supplies, and to transport the ill and the dead. However, there may not be three boats and SDRF personnel like on Monday to guide them across the Indravati, with crocodiles in its recesses.
Anjali Netam carried a two-year-old girl in her arms. “Every single time we cross the river, there is danger. It hasn’t rained for five days so the river is calmer…. Every time we vote, we hope that finally a bridge will be built, perhaps a road so that we don’t have to walk too much. But this never happens. But we vote anyway. What option is there,” Netam, of Badekarka village, said.
For the six villages of Badekarka, Tumriguda, Cherpal, Paurnar, Hitawada and Handawada that lie across the river, which signals the beginning of Abhujhmaad, the district administration has shifted polling booths to Muchnar.
The river is not the only problem. Living in an area considered to be a Maoist bastion, voting is always fraught with danger.
A quiet system has been established at the Muchnar polling booth. Those from this side of the river have ink put on their hands. Those “from the other side” are exempt. A school teacher who is part of the election commission team admitted this was a shift from normally stringent EC processes. “But this is about their life and death. What happens if they vote, go back to their villages and something happens?” he said.
In Muchnar, people were secretive about their choice of party or candidate. Any questions about Maoists are met with a stoic silence. But officials at the booth said on Monday, “It is already clear that more people have come from across the river. This can be read in two ways. Either they are more encouraged about the future of democracy, or the Maoists have not been as strong about their admonitions about elections…” an official said.
Polling day passed off peacefully in Dantewada. “There have been no incidents,” said Dantewada SP Abhishek Pallava.
The office of the state Chief Election Officer said that a turnout of 53.25 per cent was recorded till 3 pm.