Too remote for politicians to go

Source: By Sushanta Talukdar (The Hindu, Apr 11th, 2009, accessed 27 June 2013). 

Voters in Vijaynagar, Arunachal Pradesh, cannot recall having met a candidate yet

Vijaynagar: A bag of cement (50 kg) costs Rs. 3,000, a kilo of salt Rs. 30; mustard oil is Rs. 150 a litre. There are no roads, no electricity, no phones; and no ration shops, either. Twice a month, an AN-32 aircraft of the Indian Air Force flies into Vijaynagar, the only contact with the outside world. Even this is irregular because of the unpredictable weather.

Snow capped Mugaphi hill overlooks the 13 villages of this remote and totally air-supplied administrative circle in Changlang district in Arunachal Pradesh, which come under the Arunachal East Lok Sabha constituency. This must rank as one of the most remote areas of India where polling officials will set up booths.



Villagers waiting to board an IAF AN 32 plane in Vijaynagar, Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh. Photo: RITU RAJ KONWAR


A Lisu tribesman with his children. Photo: RITU RAJ KONWAR

The 3000-odd voters of the 5,000-plus population here on the India-Myanmar border are ready to vote: however, they don’t know who the candidates are — no one has come here to campaign. Nobody seems to remember the last time a candidate visited their area for campaigning. They do send agents, but the difficulty in reaching the area and the small numbers of voters lead them to give it a miss. The population is a mix of Lisu tribals, who migrated from Myanmar in the early 1930s, and Nepalis, most of who are families of ex-servicemen of the Assam Rifles settled by the Indian Government from 1964 to 1969 in this valley.

The Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) at an altitude of 4,200 feet is considered one of the toughest landing grounds by IAF pilots; whenever the AN-32 lands the villagers rush to the airstrip, hoping to get a chance to be among the 10-12 passengers, who fly down to Mohanbari airport in upper Assam’s Dibrugarh district from where they can travel to the nearest town Miao, and the district headquarters, Changlang.

Vijaynagar is surrounded by Myanmar on all sides. On an average, not more 20-25 people can fly out every month. The incoming flights bring a maximum of 24 passengers and registered parcels and rations for government staff. Patients get priority on the flights.

For those who can’t find a seat on the flight, there is only one alternative: a six-day trek through the thick jungles of Namdapha National Park to reach Miao. The 157-km long Miao-Vijaynagar road was motorable till 1976, but it has fallen into disrepair since. The villagers hire Chakma refugees to bring goods from Miao on head loads or on elephant back for which they have to cough up Rs 50 a kilo, which explains the exorbitant prices. Vijaynagar is yet to be covered by landline or mobile phone networks. The Circle Office had a satellite phone which went out of order in February this year. Each call made by the villager is charged Rs 50 plus Rs. 5 a minute.

“Every time we vote, we hope that the elected representative will do something to end this isolation. However, during his last term our MP Tapir Gao did not visit Vijayangar.

“Till now no agent of any candidate or political party has visited us. We have come to know that polling will take place on April 16. However, we still do not know who the candidates are this time,” said K.D. Yobin, the Secretary of the Vijaynagar Baazar Committee.

The voters are also yet to get their new Electors Photo Identity Cards; they are awaiting the arrival of the 30-member polling team which will make the necessary arrangements.

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