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3 Villages Withhold Votes, Insist on Bridge Construction First

Lok Sabha

Three groups of villagers, two from Uttar Pradesh and one from Jharkhand, have abstained from voting in the fifth phase of the Lok Sabha election, which is taking place today in 49 seats spread across six states and two Union Territories. The villagers have declared that they will not be participating in the elections as their repeated calls for progress have gone unanswered.

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Thousands of people in the Kaushambi district of Uttar Pradesh’s Hisampur Marho are at home today while their neighbors in nearby villages line up to cast ballots. Posters announcing the villagers’ decision to boycott the election have appeared at a significant crossroads in the village. At the closest voting booth, a group of villagers is also staging a protest.

The village, according to residents, has seen no development and repeated appeals to elected representatives have fallen on deaf ears. “There is no road to the village. We need to cross railway tracks to go anywhere. Children have to cross the tracks to go to school. Nearly a dozen people have been run over by trains, but promises to build an overbridge were not fulfilled,” village headman Virendra Yadav said.

With no one from the village turning up at the polling booth hours after the voting began, subdivisional magistrate Mahendra Srivastava and other officials were seen requesting the villagers to vote. But the protesters were firm — no vote till there is development.

The Kaushambi Lok Sabha seat has been represented by the BJP’s Vinod Sonkar for a decade now. Prior to that, Samajwadi Party’s Shailendra Kumar was the local MP.

Scenes similar to those in Hisampur Marho were witnessed at Parahaji village in Uttar Pradesh’s Barabanki district. Here, the villagers said they would boycott the election because their long-standing demand for a bridge across the Kalyani river had not been fulfilled. The villagers said neither elected representatives nor local administration had responded to their appeal. Subdivisional magistrate Ramashray Verma and other officials urged the villagers to vote, but they refused. The local administration managed to pacify them after they promised to put together a pontoon bridge at the earliest.

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A pontoon bridge is a temporary bridge in which floats or shallow boats are used a support a deck for pedestrian and vehicular movement. Such bridges, however, cannot take a very heavy load.

Parahaji village is part of the Faizabad Lok Sabha constituency, represented by the BJP’s Lallu Singh since 2014. Over the last couple of decades, the Congress, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party have also registered victory in Faizabad, but the people of Parahaji kept waiting for their bridge.

Over 600 kilometres away, another group of villagers is boycotting the polls. Kusumbha village is part of Jharkhand’s Hazaribagh Lok Sabha seat, which has handed the BJP back-to-back wins since the 2009 election. Over 2,000 voters in the village have stayed away from the polling booths today. By noon, no votes had been cast in two booths.

Two polling places in Kusumbha have seen a boycott of the election by voters, according to deputy commissioner Nancy Sahay, who spoke to news agency PTI. SP Arvind Kumar and I visited the village to encourage people to cast ballots.” According to the police chief, the villagers had threatened to cast their votes if their demand for a bridge was not satisfied.

The officials gave the explanation that the villagers had requested a bridge from the National Thermal Power Corporation, which operates a plant in Hazaribagh. But NTPC had made the decision to construct an underpass. However, the villagers claim that this will make it more difficult to get access to medical care, necessities, and drinking water. For the past two months, the district administration said, it has been in communication with NTPC regarding the matter.

A voter, Nakul Mahto, told PTI that an underpass would not meet their needs. “We are demanding the construction of a bridge, which NTPC has not fulfilled,” he said.

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