JAJPUR: Nagada recorded an impressive voter turnout of over 75 per cent in the fourth phase panchayat elections on Tuesday as enthusiastic villagers made a beeline for the polling booth which was set up for the first time in the hilltop village.
At least 330 out of total 437 voters of Nagada exercised their franchise at booth 1. Home to the Juang community, a particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG), the village comprises three hamlets - Upar, Majhi and Tala Nagada.
In the past, the tribal villagers had to trek at least 11 km through hilly terrains and dense forest to reach the nearest polling station at Deogaon primary school to exercise their franchise. This led to a very low voter turnout from the village as elderly people could not undertake the arduous journey to exercise their voting rights.
Besides, contesting candidates could not reach the tribal village due to the absence of any motorable road. But this time, the Jajpur administration opened a polling booth in Nagada after improving road connectivity to the village. Nagada had shot into the limelight after 19 malnutrition deaths were reported from the village in 2016.
On the day, polling remained by and large peaceful barring some stray incidents in Jajpur unlike the previous three phases of the three-tier polls which witnessed large-scale violence including booth rigging and ballot box loot. The administration had put in place heavy police bandobast to ensure that fourth phase polling remained violence-free in the district.
Official sources said there were no reports of violence in any booths during elections. However, polling for the post of ward member was cancelled at a booth in Sukinda block due to an error in ballot papers.
Tension prevailed at booth 11 of Sanasailo panchayat in Sukinda after the presiding officer allegedly covered election symbols of two contesting sarpanch candidates by folding the ballots. On being informed, senior police officers and the local administrative officials rushed to the booth and took stock of the situation.
The district recorded 72 per cent voter turnout in the fourth phase polling. Meanwhile, police arrested 69 persons for their involvement in poll-related violence during the first three phases of polling.
With this, a total of 98 persons have been arrested so far in poll violence cases across the district. Jajpur SP Rahul PR said raids are underway to nab other accused involved in the cases.