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First vote in Maoist hotbed in Odisha’s Swabiman Anchal in 15 yrs on Thursday

Bhubaneswar, Feb 23 (PTI) Swabhiman Anchal, once considered a Maoist hotbed in Odisha’s Malkangiri district, will go to vote for the first time in 15 years during the fifth and last phase of the panchayat elections on Thursday.

The election in Swabiman Anchal, earlier known as Cut-off area, was last held in 2007 and the polls were cancelled in 2012 and 2017 because of the Maoist menace, an official said.

Left-wing ultras operating in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh used to take shelter in the area as it was almost inaccessible for security personnel, said an official engaged in anti-Maoist operations.

The place is encircled by water on three sides while the other one connects to a dense forest of Andhra Pradesh. Polling parties, along with security personnel, travelled on boats for hours to reach the polling stations in villages such as Jodamba, Panasput, Andarapali and Jantri.

“We have dispatched the polling parties and all have safely reached their destination. The police have made elaborate arrangements for conduct of polling in Swabiman Anchal,” said Project Director, DRDA (district rural development agency) Balamukund Bhuyan.

A senior district official said that though Swabhiman Anchal has been largely freed from the Maoist influence, there were villages under Janti and Panasput gram panchayat where police do not go fearing either landmine explosion or abduction by the ultras.

The situation in Swabhiman Anchal has substantially improved after opening of the 910-metre Gurupriya bridge in July 2018. The bridge has significantly helped Odisha police in combating Maoist activities in the district.

Polling was peaceful in other Maoist affected areas in the previous four phases of the rural polls.

In the last phase, the voting will be held in 975 gram panchayats of 48 blocks spread over 25 districts. More than 41.88 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise, State Election Commission Secretary RN Sahu said. PTI AAM NN NN

This report is auto-generated from PTI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.

Source: The Print

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