Malkangiri: Two years back, a movie by the name of ‘Newton’ based on a diligent and honest Indian polling officer created ripples internationally. Many said that the protagonist Nutan (Newton) Kumar played by Rajkumar Rao was someone ‘too good to be true’. On Thursday, 36 polling officials of 6 polling parties in Odisha proved the world wrong. Braving rocky terrain and hilly areas, these officers walked 15 kilometers on foot without food and water to take the EVMs back to safety, thus becoming examples of real-life ‘Newtons’.
These officers were given election duty in Mudulipada High School of Bonda Ghati in Malkangiri, a district infested by Left Wing Extremism. Just like Newton in the movie, who was committed to conducting free and fair voting despite all odds in an insurgency-ridden jungle, these 36 officers too performed their duty upholding the Constitution of India.
Samal Kumar Routray, one of the officers, narrated that they were advised by the Section Officer that it was not safe to send cars as the vehicles could be easy target of explosives in the night after polling. Thus, they had to walk back taking an off-route. After safely sealing all polling materials, machines and documents, the officers embarked on a journey of 15 kilometers at an altitude of 1,000 feet above sea level to take everything back to safety.
Braving thunderstorm, lightning and drizzling rain, the officers took small breaks to wrap the materials in polythene and tarpaulins. During pangs of hunger, the SOG jawans accompanying the officers offered dry fruits and water and also motivated the officers to carry on. Branches became walking sticks and tree trunks became supports for when the officers needed help in traversing the remote area. The polling officials trekked hilly terrain with heavy EVM and VVPAT machines on their shoulders and took a power nap amidst dense jungle.
“We reached Khairput at 9 am, from where we were shifted to Malkangiri. We handed over everything safely at the Collector’s office,” he added.
With Maoist threat looming large after the red rebels had called for boycott of elections, this brave act of polling officials have been commended by many and they have been rightfully termed ‘Real Life Newtons’.
Despite all the hardships and minor injuries, an exhausted officer Managobinda Sena simply said without any complaints or qualms, “It was a new and worthwhile experience.”