New Delhi (Sputnik): India's southernmost polling booth, Shompen Hut, had an entire team of polling officials manning the ballot station from morning till night without a single voter showing up during the first phase of the national election on 11 April, reported The Times of India newspaper.
The island where the booth is situated is some 1,623 km away in the Bay of Bengal from the south Indian mainland metropolitan city of Chennai. It is merely 163 km from the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
In the last national election in 2014, just two tribal voters exercised their right to vote at the facility. The constituency is a tribal-dominated area with little to no contact with the outside world.
"We have two booths with 66 and 22 voters each in Shompen Hut. Our polling party was present in the difficult terrain to facilitate voting. However, no vote was cast this year," the media report quoted KR Meena, chief electoral officer of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, as saying.
The two voters who voted in 2014 belonged to Shompen tribe. But the other tribes, namely the Jarawas and Sentinelese, who also are indigenous inhabitants of the Andaman islands, have never ever cast a single vote in the history of Indian elections, according to The Times of India. Yet, New Delhi still puts in place the necessary infrastructure to give them the option to vote.
Election officials rely on local liaisons to inform and educate the indigenous tribe members of the elections and their right to vote. Most of the time, the election announcements are not relayed well by the interlocutors due to cultural and language barriers.
Additionally, the Supreme Court of India has explicitly forbidden non-indigenous people to approach the tribe members or venture within a 5-km buffer zone of their homes. This creates additional difficulties for polling officials to reach out to the voters.