CHANDIPUR (BALASORE): The men behind the path-breaking A-SAT mission, which possibly provided the NDA much-needed push for the General Elections 2019, are not part of the biggest festival of democracy, literally.
More than 70 per cent of around 3,000 voters comprising scientists, technical officers, service personnel and civilians, who are employed and settled here for years, will be unable to cast their votes on Monday as their names are either missing in the list here or enrolled in their native States.
This is not the fist time that they are not participating in the elections. Many scientists and technical officers, who are directly involved in several major missile missions, have not exercised their franchise in the last three to four elections. It is not that they are unwilling but duty comes first than democratic commitment for them.
Scientist AK Srivastav, with the Integrated Test Range (ITR) of DRDO, is a native of Raipur. He had hoped to vote this year but could not. “Since we had a rare and successful mission, I wanted to take leave this time and go home to cast my vote. But it could not be possible because I have other official commitments. For me, commitment to national security comes first,” he said. Srivastav was among over 300 scientists and technical officers, who were part of the launching team of A-SAT mission that took place on March 27, when India became the fourth nation in the country to have destroyed a live satellite.
A 30-minute journey from Balasore, Chandipur houses Proof and Experimental Establishment (PXE) and Military Engineering Service (MES) besides the ITR. Both the defence establishments have four colonies for scientists, civilians, military and security personnel besides contractual staff who are from different States such as Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Punjab. Around 5000 people live in these colonies and like the DRDO labs, entry of outsiders to these localities are restricted, if not prohibited.
Many native scientists from the State also expressed their inability to vote citing that they were busy in another mission, which is likely to be conducted shortly. But there is a silver lining too. Scientists Pradip Saha and Sanjay Kumar, from WB and Bihar respectively, have shifted their names from their native States to Balasore and they are going to cast their votes on Monday.
Scientist Madhusmita Mohanty said her name is enrolled at her in-laws’ village in Paradip. Like every election, she will vote this time too. The opportunity comes once in five years. As a citizen one should exercise its democratic right, she said.
Director of ITR Binay Kumar Das, who is a voter in Puri, suggested that the administration needs to be proactive and ensure that every voter is enrolled and provided with the opportunity to exercise his or her franchise.