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Elections in forgotten India

Purulia is just another district forgotten by a country obsessed with cell phones and the Sensex.

Included from Bihar in 1956 and bordering modern-day Jharkhand, this arid, mostly tribal land needs an arms drop to figure in the nation's consciousness. Or, like now, an election against the backdrop of what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh calls independent India's gravest threat to internal security: Maoist extremism.

So much so that it needs 151 companies of central para military forces and about 10 companies of state police to ensure elections are free and fair. "We are leaving no gaps in security," says Purulia District Magistrate Mukul Gopal Sarkar, after his meeting with Deputy Election Commissioner Ananth Kumar, who paid a brief helicopter visit to the district.

You don't need development indices to realise Purulia -- one of the three West Bengal districts voting in Phase one of the five-stage assembly election -- is one of the most backward areas of the country.

But if you insist on numbers, here is one: Purulia has 996 of the West Bengal's 4,612 extreme poverty-ridden villages.

It also has, statistics say, the most politically responsible people in the country. A sizable number of booths record very high percentage of votes, hovering around the 80 per cent mark, and in some booths, even 90 per cent.

The district is what is called a red fortress, with nine of its 11 assembly constituencies with the Left Front.

Text: Sumit Bhattacharya | Photographs: Baishampayan Saha

Also See:
Complete Coverage: Assembly Elections 2006

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