DHENKANAL: Maoists are not the only threat for polling officials in forested regions of Odisha. In jungles of Dhenkanal, elephants have emerged as another cause of worry.Amid the lurking elephant scare in the region, Dhenkanal Forest Division has come out with an advisory for polling officials asking them to refrain from answering nature’s call in the open early during the morning and evening hours.
In a written communication to all range offices, the Division alerted forest guards and elephant squads to protect voters and polling officials in elephant zones of the district.The move comes a couple of days after five persons were killed by an elephant in two villages of Talcher. The range officials have also been directed to promote awareness among villagers as well as polling personnel.
Forest officials have informed villagers to cast their votes in time and return home before 4 pm so that they can reach home before evening. In many villages, people have to walk for three to five km to exercise their franchise by crossing forest roads. The district administration has asked presiding officers to carry out mock polling from 5.30 am onwards. Dhenkanal district is one of the worst affected man-elephant conflict zone in the State.
On Sunday, polling officials from Dhenkanal were sent to Parjang and Kankadahada blocks for election duty. Booths have been opened in schools which will also house the personnel on election duty. Polling officials have been asked to use toilets inside the school campus.
Dhenkanal Division has 104 forest beats of which 85 are used by elephants. Elephants usually cross Brahmani river and take the village roads early in the morning. There have been several instances of villagers falling victim to elephant attacks while attending nature’s call in the morning hours.
Of late, elephants have been wreaking havoc in Parjang and Hindol. As on Sunday, as many as 161 elephants are roaming in 34 places in the district. While 61 elephants have been tracked under Hindol range, some were found near Brahmani river.
After holding discussions with DFO Sudarshan Patra, Collector Nikhil Pawan Kalyan has reportedly asked forest officials to guide polling personnel on movement of elephants during election duty.
DFO Patra said patrolling has been intensified in all the zones frequented by elephants. “We have deployed guards for people coming from nearby villages to cast votes,” he said.
As many as 1,020 polling booths have been set up in four Assembly segments of Dhenkanal, which will go to polls on April 23.