Election 2019

In Andamans, sitting by the sea with EVMs for 3 days

Three days after polling concluded in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, poll officers are still waiting for EVMs and VVPAT machines, docked on small boats, to reach the Port Blair headquarters of the Lok Sabha constituency.

After several dinghy rides, meandering through shallow seas and coral reefs with officers carrying electoral machines and sacks full of papers having crossed sandy beaches and dense forests, the last leg of the counting electoral process will be completed on April 15. At Port Blair, the presiding officer’s diary will be put to scrutiny and relevant documents will be filled up by officials, four days after polling was conducted. In other constituencies, this process is generally completed on the day of polling itself.

Polling is conducted in the 31 inhabited islands under nine tehsils of the Andaman and Nicobar parliamentary constituency through 407 polling stations with an electorate of 3,17,878 voters of which around 8% are tribals.

Many of these islands are situated in areas where it takes three or more days to reach after traveling by different modes of transport, including boat and ship, and even helicopter rides in certain cases. In a huge challenge, polling officials have to trek through large patches of irregular terrain.

“It takes around three to four days for all EVMs and VVPAT machines to reach us. In some islands, even after the end of polling, officers have to stay back the night, since sailing in unpredictable climatic conditions is not advisable. Next day, they take dinghies to the temporary strong rooms in the nine tehsils of the area. From here, the polling parties bring the machines to Port Blair in ships,” chief electoral officer of Andaman and Nicobar Islands KR Meena said.

In some areas, officers have to wade through mangroves infested with crocodiles on small canoes or take long routes through hilly patches to avoid pythons in order to reach hamlets in the interiors.

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