Better roads reduce P-2 booths in Hills; only 3 exist in Darjeeling & none in Kalimpong
DARJELLING: In earlier days due to the tough terrains, the polling process in the Hills required many improvisations in order to overcome communication hurdles. All this has changed now. Owing to better road connectivity, there are no P-2 booths in the Kalimpong district this election. However, three P-2 booths still exist in the Darjeeling district.
The Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts have the highest and the farthest polling booths in the State respectively.
The highest polling station is located at Shrikhola primary school at an altitude of 2800m, below the world-famous trekking destination Sandhakphu. It is 12 km from the nearest settlement Rimbik (Rimbik has motorable road connectivity with Darjeeling.) It is also considered the third highest polling station in the country.
The furthest polling station is Tangta Primary School. Voters have to travel 133 km by vehicle from Kalimpong town and then walk 4 km to reach the booth.
Polling personnel have to leave two days ahead of the polling day to reach these booths. Hence, they are called P-2 booths. The polling personnel have to walk while carrying the EVMs and VVPAT machines by man load or ponies.
In 2006, there were 16 P-2 booths in the Darjeeling district, 14 in Kalimpong and 2 in the Darjeeling sub-division. At present, there are no P-2 booths in Kalimpong. Darjeeling and Kalimpong will go to the polls on Saturday.
"We have done away with P-2 booths in our district from this election. With good road connectivity, the farthest booth can also be reached in a day. However, the polling personnel have to depart for the booths early. We have already briefed them. They are to report at 7 am on Friday. They will reach the booths by evening. All these booths are in Gorubathan and we will give top priority to the polling parties going to this region" stated R. Vimala, DM and District Election Officer, Kalimpong.
Three P-2 booths still exist in the Darjeeling district. They are Srikhola Primary School (23/1,) Daragaon Junior High School (23/2,) Rammam Forest Primary School (23/4.)
"Polling personnel departed for these booths on Thursday. They will be reaching in the evening and will be spending the night at the booths" stated Piyush Salunkhe, SDO, Darjeeling.
Interestingly in earlier days, different coloured flags were used in some P-2 booths, especially in Tangta with no means of communication at all. Different coloured flags used to be waved from hilltops to signal different messages to persons positioned at lower altitudes. The messages would then be relayed to the sector offices.
With elections having gone hi-tech, mobile phones, police personnel with RT Sets, man packs with repeaters will be pressed into service in such booths for smooth communication. However, there are many shadow areas where cell phones don't work.