Every vote counts: how this electoral team hiked through mountains so that one village’s sole voter could cast her ballot
Even though Sokela Tayang is the only voter in Malogam village, the polling booth had to be kept open from 7 am in the morning till 5 pm in the evening.
Located in the mountainous terrain of Arunachal Pradesh’s Anjaw district, Malogam village achieved 100 percent voter turnout, again. Thirty-nine-year-old Sokela Tayang, mother of three, is the only voter from her village for the Assembly and the Lok Sabha elections.
Although the 2011 census recorded five residents and one household in Malogam village, Tayang is the only registered voter there at present.
This time, a six-member election team, led by Gammar Bam, a junior engineer with the State’s power department, set up a polling station to ensure that Sokela could cast her vote in the Parliamentary and provincial elections on April 11.
In a conversation with the Telegraph, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer Liken Koyu said,
Officials will need to man the polling booth from 7 am till 5 pm on the voting day, as we don’t know when Sokela will come and vote.
Across India, the Election Commission of India appoints government employees to set up polling stations. But, in Malogam village, Gammar was permitted to select his team members who could trek through the hills.
Gammar’s team, assisted by an attendant and a guard, had to set up the polling station in Sokela’s village. For the polling station to be set up, the team carried two electronic voting machines from Hawai, the district headquarters for Assembly and the Lok Sabha elections, and travelled for two days.
The team boarded the bus along with other polling parties till Tidding, and later got down as they had to trek a distance of about six kilometres over uneven terrain.
Speaking about the mountainous terrain, Gammar said,
The mountains are so steep that you don’t have enough space for many families to build homes and live together. Even a place with two homes is counted as a village, and one with five to 10 homes is considered normal.
He told Scroll,
Sometimes, to make the best use of the little space available, seven-eight families may build one long structure and share it.
Before setting up the polling station, the team had to first locate Sokela and inform her about the voting schedule. For this, Gammar sent over a team member in the village, but they failed to locate her.
During the last General Elections in 2014, there were two voters, including Sokela’s husband, who later transferred his vote to another location.
Speaking to Scroll, Liken said,
There were some reports that the woman had moved closer to the road.
With this piece of information, the officer sent his sector magistrate to find her, but Sokela wasn’t at her home at that moment.
As per the rules, the team had set up the pooling station near Sokela’s location at 7 pm in the morning. After a couple of hours, at 9:30 am, Sokela arrived at the tin shed that was converted into a polling station in the village. With her vote, the village once again achieved 100 percent voter turnout.
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