West Bengal gets highest allotment of central forces

April 28th, 2009 - 11:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, April 28 (IANS) As many as 220 companies of paramilitary forces - the highest in any state - will be deployed in West Bengal for its three-phase Lok Sabha polls beginning April 30, the Election Commission announced Tuesday.
Addressing the media after daylong consultations with state officials, police top brass, district magistrates, poll observers as also political parties, newly appointed Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath said four additional election observers were being appointed for better monitoring of the polls in three constituencies.

Two of the observers will be posted in Ghatal, and one each in the Darjeeling and Bishnupur Lok Sabha constituencies.

The decision was taken after various political parties expressed apprehensions that free and fair polls would not be possible without more stringent action.

“During our review meetings today, we have emphasised the need for constant monitoring and strict enforcement of the model code (of conduct). Wherever there are deviations, the observers have been instructed to take strict action and bring the matter to the notice of the state chief electoral officer (CEO) and, if necessary, the Election Commission,” Sampath said.

He said the CEO has been told that there was no restriction on the number of micro-observers.

The election commissioner, accompanied by Deputy Election Commissioner R. Balakrishnan, also urged the state administration that the central forces be deployed properly.

“We have also received requests from political parties about the need to strengthen security arrangements in assembly segments like Keshpur, Sabong, Pingla, Malda and Chandrakona,” Sampath said.

Discussions have also been held with central police force coordinators and others authorities concerned for sealing off West Bengal’s borders with Assam, Bihar and Jharkhand.

“This is needed to ensure there is no influx of bad elements from across the inter-state borders,” Sampath said.

Asked why has the commission decided to deploy the highest number of central police forces in the state, Sampath said: “Deployment of central forces is done based on the assessment of the state government, the chief electoral officer and also availability of such forces.

“The state has Maoist-affected areas. And with the elections over in other Naxalite-affected areas of the country, there is a possibility of some of these elements coming here and causing disruptions,” he said.

The election commissioner said some of the central forces will be posted in critical polling booths, with the others in “critical mobile positions” at police stations to operate as flying squads.

After the first phase, the 220 companies of forces will be moved to the constituencies going to the hustings in the second and third phase on May 7 and May 13.

However, in case of post-poll disturbances after a particular phase, a small segment of the forces will be retained in the particular area.

On complaints received about some candidates breaking the model code of conduct, Sampath said the CEO has been asked to provide additional materials. The full Election Commission will later sit and take appropriate action.

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