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Manipur Set to Create History With All-women Polling Booths in Entire Assembly Constituency

Of the 1,300 polling stations of the Inner Manipur seat, 76 would be entirely manned by women polling officers. The 38 polling stations in the Yaiskhul assembly constituency will also be officiated by all first-timers women polling officers.

Sunzu Bachaspatimayum | News18

Updated:April 22, 2019, 3:12 PM IST

Come Thursday and the second phase of the Lok Sabha elections in Manipur will enter the history books, with the state being the first in the country to introduce all-women polling booths in an entire assembly constituency. While such booths have been set up in other places too, Manipur takes the cake by having an entire assembly segment managed completely by women poll officers.

Manipur has a population of roughly 2.8 million, of which 19, 59,429 are eligible to vote. While 10,31,803 voters belonged to the Outer Manipur seat, which had already gone to polls in the first phase on April 11, 9,27,626 will vote to elect their representative for the Inner Manipur seat during the second phase on Thursday.

Significantly, of the 1,300 polling stations of the Inner Manipur seat, 76 would be entirely manned by women polling officers. Furthermore, the entire 38 polling stations in the Yaiskhul assembly constituency will be officiated by all first-timers women polling officers.

Crediting Rangitabati Waikhom, deputy commissioner of Imphal East district – who happens to be a women officer – for the idea of all women polling station in one assembly segment, PK Singh, chief electoral officer of the state, says: “Manipur is known for its female power. Most movements on social issues have been headed by the Manipuri women. We thought election is the right time to showcase this power through this kind of an arrangement. Interestingly, the district election officer and AROs were keen to set up as many all-women polling stations as possible. ”

Waikhom, Singh says, is assisted by mostly women AROs. “The DEO came up with the idea of converting an entire assembly segment into all-women polling stations. We seized the opportunity as we thought it is very doable. Rangitabali Waikhom identified Yaiskhul for this purpose.”

Waikhom, who attended the International Women’s Day recently, was struck by the idea of gender balance and gender equality. However, when she and her AROs started planning the polling exercise, she was discouraged by the responses of the women employees who tried to shy away from taking up election responsibilities.

Convinced that women would prove more efficient, and to make it a big statement for women’s empowerment in the state, Waikhom held two motivational sessions with over 280 identified female employees and fired the imagination of these women.

The selected ones were made to undergo a series of rigorous theoretical and practical trainings. The faith Waikhom bestowed on them and on their capabilities gradually transformed their confidence.

Linda Lalhuinem, a higher secondary teacher who will be officiating the poll procedures for the first time, says she is a little nervous but confident. “It is a good platform for women’s empowerment because it shows they can play an equal part as men. It is a big step taken by the Manipur government. I’m proud to be a part of it,” Lalhuinem says.

Summi, another first-timer on election duty, echoes the same confidence. “It is the right time to show to men that women can do everything too. We will try our best to outdo them,” said Summi, who has been assigned the job of a presiding officer.

PK Singh points out that these polling stations were tested during the first phase in the Outer Manipur Seat in Churachandpur and Senapati districts, and the exercise proved to be a huge success. “This is possibly because women command a lot of respect in the society and their efficiency is well known,” Singh says.

For free and fair elections, out of the 1,300 polling stations for the Inner Manipur Seat, 56 have been identified as hypersensitive and 54 as sensitive. While 90 companies of central armed police forces were deployed in the first phase, 44 companies of the central forces will be on duty for the Inner Manipur seat and 19 re-polls ordered for the Outer Manipur seat that will be conducted together with the second phase on April 18.

A total of 11 candidates are in the fray for the Inner Manipur seat, which is pitched as a four-corner fight between the BJP, Congress, CPI and Manipur film star, RK Somendro, who is fighting on an independent ticket. The Outer Manipur seat had 8 candidates fighting to represent the hills.

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