Elderly tribal man's emotional vote: A journey through Kerala's wilderness

Officials said tears welled up in the eyes of the nonagenarian after casting his vote. He had applied for the "vote from home" facility through the booth level officer.
Image used for representational purposes only
Image used for representational purposes onlyExpress illustrations

IDUKKI: It was an 18-kilometer trek through the dense forest filled with wild animals for a team of nine polling officials, comprising three women, on Wednesday to record the vote of a bedridden citizen at Edamalakkudy in Kerala's high-range district of Idukki for the Lok Sabha polls.

In the tribal village of Edamalakkudy, nestled deep within this hill district's lush forests, lives 92-year-old Sivalingam.

Despite his age and being bedridden, Sivalingam's determination to vote remains strong.

Officials said tears welled up in the eyes of the nonagenarian after casting his vote.

He had applied for the "vote from home" facility through the booth level officer.

The District Election Department then approved the application and appointed a nine-member team to record the single vote at his home.

They said a team of nine polling officials, including three women, undertook a challenging journey to reach Sivalingam's home on Wednesday.

Their goal was simple: to ensure everyone, no matter how remote, can participate in the democratic process.

Setting out from Munnar at 6 am, they travelled in vehicles through the breathtaking Eravikulam National Park before reaching Keppakkadu near Pettimudi, the entry point to Edamalakkudy.

From there, the journey was tough, spanning 18 kilometers through rugged terrain, where wild animals roam freely, officials said.

They trekked on foot through dense forests, facing obstacles like cobblestone paths and narrow trails.

After a long journey, the team finally arrived at a hut around 1.15 in the afternoon.

The tribal hamlet consisted of about 10 houses, but there was no one outside.

This made it difficult for the officials to locate the voter's house.

"When we met him, Sivalingam had been struggling to sit up or speak. His house was a simple structure made of earth covered with reeds. He is the 246th voter of booth number 31 in the Nooradi hamlet of the panchayat," an official said.

A polling booth was set up beside his bed, allowing him to vote in complete privacy, they said.

He expressed his desire for his grandson's assistance in voting.

After completing the voting process, Sivalingam bid farewell to the election officials with tears in his eyes.

Due to the threat of rain, the team decided to return immediately after a quick snack.

Despite experiencing muscle cramps and fatigue, everyone was thrilled to have successfully completed the challenging task.

The team consisted of individuals from various professions, including Jisha Merin Jose from Munnar Engineering College, M Asha from Munnar Vocational Higher Secondary School, and others.

In a statement, District Collector Sheeba George emphasised the importance of each vote, highlighting the Election Commission's commitment to ensuring everyone's voice is heard, especially in tribal areas like Edamalakudi.

The district administration aims to achieve a 100 per cent voter turnout in Edamalakudy and hopes to increase voter participation across the district.

Devikulam Sub-Collector V M Jayakrishnan announced plans to honour the team for their dedication and successful completion of the challenging mission in Edamalakudy.

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