By Sujit Chakraborty
Guwahati, April 2 (IANS) In a unique initiative, as many as 32,000 saplings were planted within a record 32 minutes at a reserved forest in western Assam on Friday as part of the theme ‘Grow with Democracy’.
Election Commission officials said that Bongaigaon district has created a national record by planting 32,000 saplings of various treee in the Kakoijana Reserved Forest under the special initiative of District Election Officer M.S. Lakshmi Priya within a record time of 32 minutes.
“The adjudicator from India Book of Records, Jitendra Jain, who was present during the event, certified the ‘all India record of maximum saplings planted at a single site for voter awareness’,” a senior EC official said.
He said that the initiative was undertaken as a part of the Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) programme for awareness generation among the voters for maximum participation in the ongoing Assembly elections in the state.
With the spirit and the theme ‘Grow with Democracy’, more than 1,500 voters participated in the plantation drive to create awareness for greater electoral participation.
The official said : “This record breaking plantation drive was undertaken synchronising with the serial number of Bongaigaon Assembly constituency — 32-Bongaigaon.”
State SVEEP icons, actor Kopil Bora, singer Anindita Paul and para-cyclist Rakesh Banik, along with Deputy Chief Electoral Officer Dimple Baruah also attended the event and motivated everyone to vote with the same enthusiasm in the upcoming third and final phase of polling scheduled on April 6.
The indigenous species of saplings planted include fruit bearing trees like Amlakhi, Bohera, Jam, Gamari, Koroi, Silikha, Bhatghila, Khasia Badam, Poma, Modhuriam, Leteku, Kothal, Arjun, Urium, Ajar, Bokul, Debdaru, Ashok, Moz, Amora, Koros, Kanchan, Jalpai, Teteli, Ponial and Sotiona, which are also a source of food for the Golden Langur, the official election mascot of Bongaigaon district.
The Kakoijana Reserved Forest is also a natural habitat for the Golden Langur, an endangered primate species found in some parts of western Assam and the foothills of Bhutan.
Assam Chief Electoral Officer Nitin Khade has extended all necessary support to the unique initiative.
Unlike previous elections, this time the Assembly polls in Assam are being conducted with a different environment by displaying the state’s cultural legacy and value-added products of the local artists and artisans, besides setting up eco-friendly polling stations that have become a new attraction for the voters.
“In the model polling stations, our officials have provided saplings, ‘gamocha’ and various other items for encouraging the voters to turn up in large numbers,” an election official told IANS.
These model polling stations were decorated with colourful balloons, flowers, bamboo crafts, Assam’s traditional ‘gamocha’, local vegetation and various other local items.
The traditional ‘gamocha’ is a white piece of cloth with a red border having a customary pattern, which is almost synonymous to Assamese identity and culture.
In the first two rounds of the three-phase Assembly elections in Assam, over 220 polling stations in 86 Assembly constituencies were categorised as model polling stations.
Nearly 81 per cent of the 73,44,631 voters exercised their franchise in the second phase of polling in Assam on Thursday in the 39 constituencies.
Around 80 per cent of 81,09,815 voters cast their votes on March 27 in the first phase of polling in 47 constituencies.
Of the three-phase elections to the 126-member Assam Assembly, the third and final phase of polling will be held in 40 seats on April 6. The results will be declared on May 2.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
By Sujit Chakraborty