In tribal dists, poll officials go walkie-talkie

In the predominantly tribal districts of Gujarat, lack of mobile and landline telephone connectivity have forced the election officials, who will be deputed at over 122 polling stations, to depend on VHF (very high frequency) walkie-talkies for day-to-day operations.

The tribal-dominated Narmada district with 76 polling stations has absolutely no telephone connectivity. This in a state that have over 400 lakh mobile connections.

There are an additional 16 such polling stations in neigbhouring Tapi district, two others are in Dahod, seven in Dangs, two in Navsari and another 10 in Sabarkantha district.

District Returning Officer (Narmada) Milind Torawane is taking the help of forest department to use its wireless sets so that they could remain connected with polling booth staff to get updates about polling percentage, other developments, particularly about security, every couple of hours.

On the polling day, Torawane said, he will be receiving information at an interval of every two hours from officials operating in the tribal districts through VHF sets. The information will then be passed to officials of Election Commission of India in New Delhi and Gandhinagar.

According to Deputy Conservator of Forest (Rajpipla) H R Prabuddha, there are 22 forest wireless stations and 224 VHF walkie-talkie sets in the two Assembly constituencies of Nandod and Dediapada. With the forest beat guards having the expertise in handling these VHF sets, they will be deputed at each of 76 polling booths to help the election officials,

Prabuddha said.

On the polling day, the beat guards will be passing the information to wireless stations and the latter in turn will transfer the message to Rajpipla base-station of the forest department. From there, the information will be communicated to District Election Control Room.

The reason for the almost zero telephonic connectivity in the district has been attributed to the hilly topography of the region. D Y Pandya, a Rajpipla-based BSNL official, said it was because of the hilly topography and the villages scattered over a large area, the telephonic connectivity remains poor. Moreover, most of the people of the region are financially weak, which has therefore not attracted the private operators.

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