ECI tells local administration to ensure voting without fear

·3-min read

Siliguri (WB), Mar 24 (PTI) Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora said Wednesday that the Election Commission of India (ECI) is hand-holding with local administration to ensure that people come out to vote in large numbers in a secure atmosphere.

A full bench of the ECI is on a two-day visit to West Bengal from Tuesday to review the arrangements for maintenance of law and order and other confidence-building measures as the first phase of asembly elections is scheduled to begin on March 27.

'The commission is doing hand-holding with the local administrations in order that more and more people come out and vote in secure atmosphere with no fear of any kind of coercion,' Arora told a press conference here.

Opposition parties have often raised issues of election-related violence in the state and lodged complaints with the ECI.

The commission has appointed 209 general observers, 55 police observers and 85 expenditure observers for the assembly elections, to be held in eight phases.

'Even observers are being observed closely by the commission,' he said.

The CEC said, an incident pertaining to a general observer was brought to the notice of ECI by the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of West Bengal on March 22 and the additional CEO and the observer concerned was removed by afternoon that day and sent back to the place from where he had come.

Arora said that the commission, after going through details of the incident, has given directions that his removal as an observer is not enough and that he should be immediately placed under suspension and a chargesheet prepared for it.

Describing it as 'one of the rarest incidents', the CEC said that this buttresses that even observers are also under watch by special observers as well as the commission.

The ECI shall not hesitate to take action in case of any dereliction. Arora said.

The CEC said that the full bench of the commission took stock of identification of troubled areas and the preventive actions taken to ensure free and fair elections.

Highlighting that all polling stations in the state will be on the ground floor, the CEC said, 'This is a non- negotiable issue for the commission for the benefit of voters aged 80-plus and those with disabilities.' Arrangements have been made for availability of drinking water, electricity, ramps for the disabled and wheelchairs in the polling stations, Arora said.

Seizures worth Rs 169.60 crores have so far been made in the state, including Rs 33.31 crore in cash, liquor worth Rs 13.22 crore and narcotics worth Rs 74.51 crore.

This is far more than seizures made during 2016 assembly elections and the last Lok Sabha polls, he said.

Based on complaints from several political parties, the commission has ordered a complete ban on bike rallies in all assembly constituencies 72 hours before the polling date and on the election day so that anti-social elements do not try to intimidate voters.

The CEC said that the order is applicable to all the poll-bound states and Union Territories.

The ECI has also directed that persons from the civic police or green police or 'so called student police' are not engaged in any election-related duty 72 hours before polling, as well on the polling day and the day after. PTI AMR MM MM