By S. Senthil Kumar
Election officials in the hill town of Valparai are in talks with Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR) officials to chalk out plans to prevent intrusion of wild elephants into polling booths on April 24.
In this regard, a list of polling booths is likely to be handed over to the Forest Department in the coming days so that more number of staff can be deployed to chase away the pachyderms in case they enter the vicinity of the polling booths.
According to sources, Valparai Assembly constituency, which is a segment of Pollachi parliamentary constituency, has a total of 200 polling booths for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. As many 61 polling booths are located in the hills, while the remaining 139 are located in the plains.
The Election officials are worried that the presence of wild animals, especially elephants near the polling stations, will have an impact on the polling percentage in the hill town.
Sources said that at present, this is one of the measures the election officials are working out to increase the voter turnout.
The Forest Department has identified the places frequented by the wild elephants in Chinna Kallar, Periya Kallar, Ryan Division, Kalayanapandal, Sangili Road, Kanchamalai Nallakathu Estate and Pannimedu Estate. The department has also placed several warning boards to caution the public not to enter the elephant corridor.
Meanwhile, an elephant damaged the compound wall of a school identified for a polling booth.
According to sources, the elephant entered the campus after it was attracted by the grocery items kept in the noon meal centre.
Sources said that those working on night shifts for election duty will have a tough time as they might encounter leopards.
Apart from protecting the polling booths from elephant intrusions, authorities have identified six polling booths in the town as vulnerable booths. Valparai Assembly constituency has the lowest electorate with 1,82,905 voters among the 10 Assembly constituencies in the Coimbatore district.