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Sundarbans residents vote happily in home islands

National,Politics, Thu, 14 May 2009 IANS

Gosaba (West Bengal), May 13 (IANS) Ashok Mondal of Jamespur village walked 45 minutes to reach his polling station Wednesday. He was happy he didn't have to travel hours by boat instead, as officials set up a polling station in his island in the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world.


'There was a good turnout in most polling stations,' Mondal told IANS. 'People seemed upbeat after exercising their right this time.'



He said this year the polling stations were set up almost in all the islands so that people do not have to travel far in their boats.



'Most of the voters in our Satjeli islands have voted comfortably this time as the polling stations were placed at convenient locations. Of course, the election officials had to come by boat as there is no other way to get here.'



Like Mondal, thousands of voters living in the Ganga delta exercised their franchise in one of three parliamentary constituencies that straddle the Sundarbans - Jaynagar and Mathurapur in South 24 Parganas district and Basirhat in North 24 Parganas.



According to the state Election Commission office, 486 poll officials travelled by boat to conduct the balloting in the Sundarbans. Most polling stations were set up in government-run schools.



'Earlier, the booths were located on big boats and people used to come on their own boats to cast their votes,' said Sujit Roy of Gosaba. 'Nowadays the situation is much improved. We are happy to cast votes in Sundarbans without facing much hassle.'



'Many of the voters still come by boat as it is the only transport available in this part of Sundarbans. Almost every house has at least one boat and they use it whenever they travel from one island to another.'



Located close to Kolkata, Sundarbans is a vast area covering 4,262 sq km, of which mangrov forests cover 2,125 sq km in India. A larger portion is in Bangladesh.


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