Itanagar: A remnant of the British Raj, Auxiliary Labour Corps (ALCs) or porters are still indispensable in Arunachal Pradesh, especially during elections, for carrying poll materials and transporting EVMs to remote polling stations in the mountainous state.
The ALCs were first appointed by the British for carrying materials. After Arunachal Pradesh became a full-fledged state in 1987, regular appointment of ALCs was stopped. They are now recruited only on a temporary basis.
Trekking the rugged and almost inaccessible terrains of the state, ALCs serve as a bridge between the government and the people and make polling possible by carrying poll materials defying all adversaries.
Even after 72 years of Independence, ALCs play an important role as there are no motorable roads in several districts, and only porter tracks exist.
"Services of ALCs are required at the time of transporting public distribution system (PDS) materials, opening of new administrative centres, natural calamities and during polls," Additional Chief Electoral Officer Kanki Darang said.
Moreover, they also carry ration items being dropped by choppers, to the Central Procurement Organisation (CPO) godowns in several districts," Darang said.
The election office here had hired 2,100 ALCs during the 2014 elections and deployed 1,400 during the 2009 assembly polls to carry poll materials to remote polling stations, officials said.
"The number of ALCs to be deployed this time will be more than the previous elections in 2014, as the Election Commission of India for the first time has introduced voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) for which additional porters will be required to carry the extra instruments," Deputy Chief Electoral Officer Liken Koyu said.
"We are dependent on them for transporting election materials to inaccessible polling stations where foot march is required, even during the declaration of results," Koyu said.
Declaration of results gets delayed in several seats as EVMs are transported by ALCs to the counting centres, which generally involve more than three days of arduous trekking.
Arunachal Pradesh has 518 remote and inaccessible polling stations and polling parties have to walk to reach such places. While some polling stations are located 30 km away others are located at a distance of 50 km from their respective district headquarters, officials said. Several polling parties would walk 2-3 days to reach such polling stations, they added.
The Election Commission would deploy more than four ALCs for each of the 518 remote and inaccessible polling stations. "The ALCs are being deployed by the respective District Election Offices (DEO) depending on the requirement," Darang said.