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The Election Commission of India (ECI) has pledged zero-tolerance against any misuse of money or government machinery during the ensuing Assam Assembly elections while assuring to make the poll process fair, peaceful, transparent and COVID-safe.
“A specific meeting was held with the enforcement agencies to crack the whip wherever required,” chief election commissioner (CEC), Sunil Arora said on Wednesday after concluding a three-day review of the state’s poll preparedness.
According to norms, the commission deploys experienced officers as observers from outside the state in every election after due scrutiny.
“If required, special observers will also be deployed in sensitive/critical constituencies/districts in Assam to monitor and ensure that elections are conducted in a free and fair manner,” Arora said.
The CEC, along with election commissioners, Sushil Chandra and Rajiv Kumar, and a team of officers from ECI, conducted an in-depth review from Monday.
The commission, during the visit, met nodal officers of central and state regulatory agencies to review the strategy to curb misuse of money, drugs and liquor distribution during the election.
The ECI team also met representatives of various political parties and noted their issues and concerns.
“Sensitivities about the Bihu festival dates (mid-April) will be taken cognisance of and factored in during the drawing up the schedule of election dates,” the CEC told reporters here on Wednesday.
“The focal points raised by political parties included a request to the commission to keep in view the dates for the Bihu festival while deciding the election schedule. Party representatives said that such a schedule would encourage more voter turnout and would help avoid the period of monsoon as well,” he said.
Keeping in view the COVID norms of ensuring social distancing, the political representatives desired that number of polling booths be increased and the list of such auxiliary polling booths also be made available, in time, so that parties can organise their booth committees and logistics in time.
“Need for adequate security at the remote polling stations was also cited. Some representatives drew the attention of the commission of deputing observers from outside the state. Among other issues, some political party representatives desired that expenditure limits be increased,” Arora said.
“Concern for misuse of social media; misuse of government machinery; some representatives also expressed misuse of money power and COVID-19 protocol violations. All political parties assured the ECI of their full cooperation in ensuring free, fair and peaceful elections,” he said.
The commission reviewed the poll preparedness work of district election officers, SPs, commissioner of police, divisional commissioners and IGs and discussed election preparedness with the chief secretary, DGP, home secretary and other senior state officials.
The commission also reviewed overall poll preparedness with the chief electoral officer, police nodal officer, and also the CAPF nodal officer.
Keeping in view the COVID social distancing norms, the commission specifically revisited some extant norms.
“As a result, they have reduced the maximum number of electors at a polling station from 1,500 to 1,000. Accordingly, for Assam, the number of polling stations would go up by about 5,000 and likely to be over 33,000,” the CEC said.
The commission further directed that assured minimum facilities (AMF) at each polling station, including drinking water, toilets, waiting area and ramps, be provided at all polling stations.
The Special Summary Revision of Photo Electoral Rolls 2021 exercise was completed on January 18, 2021, with the final publication of the electoral roll.
“Block level officers will undertake house-to-house visits for the facilitation of Form 12 D for senior citizens and PwD (persons with disabilities) electors so they can exercise their option for the postal ballot if they desire,” he said.
(Edited by Andre Kongri)