Bhubaneswar/Malkangiri: Drones have been deployed in Maoist-hit Malkangiri district for aerial surveillance during the fourth phase of panchayat elections today to ensure smooth voting.

"Drones have been deployed to conduct aerial surveillance on several highly sensitive polling booths in the district during voting for panchayat polls," said Malkangiri Superintendent of Police Mitrabhanu Mohapatra.

While drones played a significant role in keeping sensitive areas under close observtion, CCTvs have also been installed to keep an eye on the election booths and areas around, the SP said, unwilling to specify the number of drones deployed during Panchayat polls.

Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO), Malkangiri, Rahul PR said polling was held in 23 gram panchayats under three zilla parishad zones of Kalimela block of the district during the 4th phase of polling during the day.

Also read: Security beefed up for 1st phase Panchayat polls in Odisha

Out of 334 polling booths where polling was held today, as many as 175 booths were identified as sensitive and 53 as hyper-sensitive, he said.

The drones, equipped with sophisticated cameras, were used for the first time in the naxal-hit district for the first time for aerial surveillance of the hypersensitive booths to ensure smooth and peaceful conduct of the poll, the SDPO said.

According to Director General of Police (DGP), K B Singh, all possible steps were taken to prevent any untoward incident and additional forces were deployed in sensitive and hypersensitive booths besides others places.

The move to engage drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), assumed significance since the Maoists had warned people in the tribal-dominated region to boycott the panchayat elections.

The red rebels, who had warned to take drastic action against people who participate in the polling process and cast their votes, had also unleashed violence in some areas in the run-up to the three-tier panchayat polls, police said.

Also read: Three-tier security for 4th phase Panchayat polls in Odisha

Meanwhile, the State Election Commission (SEC) said all arrangements were in place for the fourth phase of the five round panchayat elections held today.

Polling took place in 28 out of the 30 districts of Odisha barring Jharsuguda and Boudh districts.

According to SEC Secretary Rabindranath Sahu, a total number of 50,61,974 people were eligible to exercise their franchise for electing 1324 sarpanchs and 17,876 ward members in 162 Zilla Parishad (ZP) zones.

The SEC asked the police to provide escort to polling parties in view of incidents of snatching of ballot boxes, setting fire to ballot papers and attack on polling officials during the first phase polls on February 13.