KOZHIKODE: One has to travel 44 km by road and walk another three hours to reach Kerala’s first tribal grama panchayat, Edamalakudy. Still the three polling booths in this panchayat are the most sought after by officials for duty. Over 180 officials had applied for duty in this otherwise restricted area under Eravikulam National Park for Monday’s assembly polls out of which 12 got selected.
Forty others including police, a medical team, revenue and social welfare department officials and luggage carriers accompany them, besides a communication team with Ham radio, which is the only mode of communication with the outside world.
The polling officers are selected after conducting medical check-up and those who are above 50 and women are not allowed due to dangerous conditions and lack of quick accessibility to emergency systems. Nearly 1,800 voters from 13 wards of the panchayat would exercise their franchise in these three booths.
Edamalakudy is one of the exotic wildlife spots in Kerala restricted to the tribal population. Special permission is required for general public to enter in this area.
“Edamalakudy is once in a lifetime experience and not all people are allowed to go there. Election duty is the best way one can see the place with the government support like medical care, forest watchers, police and communication facilities,” said Devikulam deputy tehsildar (elections) and assistant electoral registration officer Jiji M. Kunnappallil.
During Lok Sabha polls, the polling team's return journey was delayed due to the presence of wild animals on their way. However, compared to previous years, they say, the threat has come down. Edamalakudy tribal settlement is known for the Muthuvans and is situated around 22 km from Pettimudi, which is the farthest spot one can go in a vehicle. All political parties had visited the settlement seeking vote ahead of elections.