West Bengal would have less but adequate security: EC

March 19th, 2009 - 11:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Mar 19 (IANS) The Election Commission Thursday said it would send “adequate” central paramilitary forces to the state for the coming Lok Sabha polls, though their numbers will be lesser than the 2006 state assembly election.
Speaking to reporters here, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) N. Gopalaswami said the state’s chief electoral officer (CEO) has been instructed to open special counters in every polling station to receive complaints of electoral malpractices once elections were over.

“At the end of the day, the booths from which a large number of complaints are received, we will ask the presiding officers what had happened. The observers will also mention them in their reports. The Electronic Voting Machines of these booths will be kept separately,” Gopalaswami said.

On demands from the opposition that the Election Commission deploy central paramilitary personnel in every booth to check malpractices by the ruling Left Front, as was done in the assembly polls three years back, the CEC said: “For obvious reasons, such deployment can never be on the same scale as in 2006. But it will be adequate.”

However, he said 25 percent of the polling personnel will be central government staff, and their areas of deployment will be chosen randomly.

Regarding allegations from some parties that political rivals were using illegal arms and ammunition, Gopalswami said: “We have asked the DMs and SPs to carry out activities for recovering them.”

The Election Commission has also asked the district magistrates and superintendents of police to do “vulnerability mapping” of areas, to decide which areas are most vulnerable.

“We have also asked the police to submit to us instances of cases filed in the last six months in an area,” he asked.

Following allegations from some parties that they were not being able to campaign in some Maoist affected areas of the state, Gopalaswami said the police had been told to ensure everybody was able to campaign.

He said the Darjeeling district magistrate has informed the panel that all parties have agreed at a meeting that they will be able to campaign.

In the northern district of Darjeeling, there were allegations that the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) - fighting for a separate Gorkhaland state - was not allowing any of its opponents to campaign.

Gopalaswami said all polling booths would have at least one means of communication. “It may be mobile or land phone. We will be able to contact every booth sitting in our office in Delhi”.

On complaints about anomalies in the Electoral Photo Identity Cards (EPIC), Gopalsawami said the commission has arranged for two levels of verification. “In the first level, the checking will be done under the instruction of the CEO. In the next level, we will depute teams for cross-verification.”

The Election Commission has also ordered extensive video coverage for tracking of candidates and events related to the election.

“The video footage will be kept in the safe custody of the district magistrate for use in future. Digital cameras will be provided for tracking events,” he said.

Agreeing to request from parties, the Election Commission has allowed meetings on school grounds with proper permission from the school authorities and provided that the academic calendar remained undisturbed.

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