Safety arrangements in place for Odisha Assembly bypolls

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Bhubaneswar, Nov 2 (PTI) All arrangements are in place to ensure smooth voting for byelections to two Assembly seats in Odisha on Tuesday, with the authorities having taken a slew of measures to check the spread of COVID-19 during the polling process, officials said on Monday.

Over 4.67 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise between 7 am and 6 pm in Balasore and Tirtol constituencies, where a total of 15 candidates are in the fray, a senior poll official said.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, not more than 1,000 voters willbe allowed in one booth to ensure physical distance was maintained by them, Odisha's Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) S K Lohani said here.

The number of booths in Tirtol, comprising 2,37,282 eligible voters, has been increased from 265 to 373, of which 155 have been identified as critical. Similarly, in Balasore, which has 2,30,297 electorate, as many as 346 polling stations have been set up, and 86 of them were marked critical.

All electorate would be provided hand gloves, and each of them would have to sign a register and sanitise hands before casting their votes, Lohani explained.

Polling officers, who were found to be fit and healthy, have been deployed to carry out the process, equipped with COVID kits, consisting of face shields, masks and PPEs, he stated.

Around 3,500 polling personnel, 800 ASHA workers and as many volunteers have been engaged to screen voters with thermal guns before their entry into the booths, the CEO said.

Special arrangements have been made for transporting people with disabilities to the booths and back home.

Wheelchairs have been mobilised for the purpose.

Security has been tightened for smooth conduct of the polls with deployment of six companies of central armed police force, 90 platoons of police and 251 officers.

Byelections were necessitated following the demise of BJP MLA Madan Mohan Dutta in Balasore and BJD legislator B C Das in Tirtol. Counting of votes is scheduled to take place on November 10. PTI SKN RMS RMS