It took two days and three sorties by a helicopter to carry two Electronic Voting machines, two security personnel and five members of election staff, including a BLO, to reach Bara Bhangal, considered as the remotest village in Himachal Pradesh, where the Kangra district administration is setting up a polling station to allow 65 voters to exercise their franchise in the November 12 state elections.
The chopper, an AW 109 Power, completed one sortie on Wednesday and two on Thursday to ensure that the staff and machinery reached the tribal village amid two inches of snow. The seasonal snowfall started in the area two days ago.
Kangra Deputy Commissioner Nipun Jindal told The Indian Express that after it stared snowing, they feared that they would have to send the election material and staff by trek. “But finally, we succeeded today. The snowfall was not very heavy. It The helicopter was able to complete the sorties,” he said.
Bara Bhangal, he said, had 470 registered voters but only 65 are left in the village with rest having migrated to Bir ahead of extreme winter. The administration has set up a separate booth in Bir also for the village residents who have migrated. He added that two EVMs have been as one was kept for reserve in case the other develops a snag. The booth is being set up in the Government School building.
The village is only approachable by two shepherds’ treks — a 72-km trek from Billing through Thamsar pass, and a 40-km trek starting from Holi in Chamba. The administration had stationed an alternative team on standby at Holi area. It takes a two-day to reach the village from Holi, he said.
The village is tucked away deep in the Dhauladhar and Pir Panjal ranges of the Himalayas at a height of 7,700 feet. Considered the remotest village in Himachal, a polling booth was first set up in the village during the Assembly elections in 2007, after 60 years of independence.
The voters in Bara Bhangal had boycotted the general elections in 2009 demanding that the village be excluded from the purview of a wild life sabctuary. They had, however, voted in the 2012 assembly elections.
Pabna Kumari, a resident and office bearer of Himachal Ghumantu Pashu Palak Committee, said that many residents migrated to Bir every year but some had to stay back. She said helicopters had been used to lift polling parties to the Bara Bhangal during the previous three elections.
Before 2007, the villagers used to trek 72 km through the 4,654 metre high Thamsar Pass or travel more than 300 km via Chamba to reach Bir in Baijnath (Kangra district) to exercise their franchise.
During summers large numbers of shepherds who take their animal stock across the Dhauladhars for grazing use Bara Bhangal as halting and station for supplies.