first_imgTimely flow of intelligence and planned action by security personnel led to the peaceful conduct of polling in the Maoist-affected district of Malkangiri in Odisha on April 11.A month before the first phase of the Lok Sabha election, the district police had reliable information about entry of one military platoon of the outlawed CPI(Maoist) organisation from Chhattisgarh for violent activities during the polling process.Malkangiri Superintendent of Police (SP) Jagmohan Meena said that a week before the polls, intelligence reports hinted at Maoists concentrating in the Dandakaranya region, including areas of Malkangiri and Dantewada in adjoining Chhattisgarh. Death of a BJP MLA and five security men in a landmine blast triggered by the Maoists in Chhattisgarh on April 9 also enhanced caution in Odisha.All sensitive polling stations were sanitised before polling parties reached there. Helicopters were used to transport polling parties and EVMs to the erstwhile cut-off area of Balimela reservoir. There were reliable inputs about Maoists’ plan to ambush polling parties for the Mudulipada area, where six booths had been clubbed for security reason. Two days before the start of polling, Special Operation Group teams reached the area to keep a watch from tactical positions.To reduce vulnerability, polling teams were sent to Mudulipada booths on April 10 night. On April 11, at 2 p.m. while polling was on, Malkangiri SP received information about the Maoists’ plan to ambush and loot EVMs between Mudulipada and Khairaput during the return journey of the polling parties. In this remote hilly jungle terrain vulnerable to IEDs, it is hard to secure road after evening.After discussing with the administration, the Chief Electoral Officer and the police officers, a route map was drawn for safe return of the polling parties on foot, Mr. Meena said. The SOG teams received coordinates of the path through satellite phone. They had to walk this 15 km least treaded hilly jungle path with polling parties and EVMs. The team’s movement was continuously monitored from the district police headquarters. On April 11 late night, the team started its return journey from Mudulipada.As it is hard to walk through the hilly jungle at night, the polling teams took shelter at a safe place. On April 12 early morning, they started walking to the safe region and reached Khairaput at 10 a.m. to be transported to Malkangiri town. During the Lok Sabha and the Assembly elections in Odisha in 2014, Maoists had looted EVMs from 15 polling booths in the district. Due to their threat and abduction of officials, panchayat elections could not be held in remote areas of Chitrakonda block in 2017.last_img

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