With the hope that the new government of Assam will address their problems, Haleswar Ray on Tuesday voted for the party of his choice at the sole polling station set up outside the Indo-Bangladesh border fencing in the state’s Dhubri district. Ray is one of the 386 voters of the polling station at Bhogdanga, a tiny hamlet in the Gauripur assembly constituency in the district, and voting was held peacefully in the third and final phase of the elections. Dhubri district, which shares 153 kms of the total 267.5 kms of Assam”s border with Bangladesh, has 63 polling stations along the international boundary with 26 in Dhubri, 18 in Gauripur and 19 in Golokgunj constituencies, an official said.

All these polling stations are inside the border fence except Bhogdanga which is outside it.

According to international norms, a country has to erect border fences leaving a gap of 137 yards from the actual boundary. Because of this, Bhogdanga and its neighbouring village Fauskarkuti which are very close to the actual border are situated outside the fencing.

Inhabitants of the two villages who vote in Bhogdanga polling station are able to reach the other side of the fence when the BSF personnel open the border gates at 6 am and they have to return home by the time the gates close at 4 pm, the official said.

“We have immense faith in the election process and hope that the new government will address all our issues in a time-bound manner,” Ray, who is the village headman of Bhogdanga, told PTI.

He said that they have myriad problems and the primary concern is their security.

The remote location of the villages pose major hurdles as the residents have to depend on the opening of the border gates for access to basic needs in markets on the other side of the fence, he said.

There are 386 voters 206 male and 180 female – registered in the Bhogdanga polling station and most of them belong to the Muslim and the Koch Rajbongshi communities. Four voters are above the age of 80. “Almost all voters have exercised their franchise and polling was held smoothly,” the official said.

Political party workers visit the two villages outside the fence for canvassing.

Dhubri Deputy Commissioner Deva Kumar Kalita, who visited the polling station recently to review arrangements, said that the main target of the district administration is to ensure that all voters including those living along the international border are able to exercise their voting rights.

A senior BSF official said that their personnel have been engaged in helping voters by providing them with security cover.

“During elections, we have to be extra cautious so that miscreants do not disrupt the poll process,” the official added.

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