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Polling officials to trek 39 km for lone voter in Arunachal village

44 year old Sokela Tayang lone voter in Malogam, which is inhabited by few families

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ITANAGAR, March 27: On April 18, a team of polling officials will trek nearly 40 kilometres on foot through treacherous terrain to set up a voting booth in a remote corner of Arunachal Pradesh near the China border — all for the sake of Malogam village’s lone voter, a 44-year-old woman, Sokela Tayang.

“It is not always about numbers, but it is to ensure that every citizen gets his or her voice heard. Sokela Tayang’s vote is a testament to our commitment to inclusivity and equality,” said chief electoral officer Pawan Kumar Sain.

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According to election officials, very few families reside in Malogam, and all but Tayang are registered voters in other polling booths. But she is not willing to shift to any other polling booth.

For Tayang to cast her vote, a polling team, including officials, security personnel and porters, will embark on the arduous journey through inhospitable hilly terrain amid unpredictable weather from Hayuliang, officials said.

The village is in the Hayuliang assembly seat and in the Arunachal East Lok Sabha constituency where the contest will be between Bosiram Siram of the Congress party and Tapir Gao of the BJP.

In the last elections in 2019, Gao won the seat — one of the two constituencies in Arunachal Pradesh — garnering over 1.5 lakh votes. He defeated Lowangcha Wanglat of the Congress party who got 83,935 votes.

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“The journey from Hayuliang to Malogam takes a full day on foot,” Joint Chief Electoral Officer Liken Koyu told PTI.

Everyone has the right to cast his or her vote no matter how remote the location is, Koyu said.

“The polling team might have to be in the booth from 7 am to 5 pm on the voting day as we don’t know when Tayang would come to cast her vote,” Koyu said.

Tayang doesn’t live in the village and her connection to Malogam is tenuous as her daughter and son study in colleges elsewhere.

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“I hardly stay in my village… usually I come here for some work or during elections. I usually stay at Wakro in Lohit district, where I have farmlands,” she said.

In the 2014 elections, the polling booth at Malogam had two voters. The other was Tayang’s estranged husband Janelum Tayang, who, however, transferred his name to another booth in the constituency.

“We have been separated for the last 15 years. I don’t know where he lives at present,” she said.

Tayang said she would reach her home by April 18 evening to cast her vote on April 19, the first day of the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections. Assembly elections for the state will also be held simultaneously on April 19.

Of the total 2,226 polling stations in the state, 228 can be reached only by foot. Of these, 61 will require a two-day walk, while seven would need three-day trekking.

Nominations will be scrutinised on Thursday and the last date for withdrawal of nominations is March 30.

Counting of votes for assembly polls would be held on June 2, while votes polled for Lok Sabha would be counted on June 4. (PTI)

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