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ECI briefs General, Police and Expenditure Observers for Assembly elections
New Delhi, March 4, 2021
The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Wednesday held a briefing meeting for Observers to be deployed for the coming General Election to the Legislative Assemblies of Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
More than 1650 Observers attended the briefing in person or virtually from more than 120 remote locations.
Officers from IAS, IPS, IRS and other Central Services were included to be deployed as General, Police and Expenditure Observers.
Addressing the meeting, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said the Observers were among the most important torchbearers of Indian democracy. During his tenure in ECI, since September 2017, he has been associated with 14 Elections of state Assemblies and also the 2019 Lok Sabha General Elections where the Observers played an important role in the conduct of election, he said.
Taking note of the exemplary work by the CEO and DEOs of Bihar despite widespread COVID concerns, he said the polls become a turning point in the history of Indian elections. Even the participation of voters was better than the previous Assembly and Parliamentary elections in Bihar.
The successful conduct of elections was always a combined feat of field officers and ECI where the Observers and Special Observers also play a vital role, he added.
During the coming elections, Special Observers will have an additional role in the randomization of forces and deployment. “The resilience of Indian democracy lies in the fact that the so-said 'common man' plays a decisive role in Government formation. The motto of the ECI is to ensure empowered, vigilant, well informed and safe voter," he said.
Arora reminded the Observers that they should be visible and accessible to citizens and enable them to vote fearlessly. The ECI will act swiftly and ruthlessly in case anyone is found to be lax in performing their duties. It will not tolerate any willful lapses, he reiterated.
Arora asked the Observers to visit the polling booths to check facilitation to senior citizens, persons with disabilities and women voters to ensure the Commission's commitment to the principle of Inclusive elections.
Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra said that, in the coming elections, more than 18 crore voters would be exercising their right of franchise. Accounting for social distancing norms, more than 80,000 polling stations have been added.
Observers need to ensure proper direction to field-level officers so that the ECI’s constitutional mandate was scrupulously fulfilled. He called upon Observers to ensure active interventions and presence which could enable building confidence among the voters, especially in vulnerable areas.
All efforts should be made to curb money power or vices of liquor and freebies with the complete involvement of all enforcement agencies. Chandra emphasized that Observers should play an important role in making these elections totally inducement free.
Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar reminded the Observers that their conduct would be under scrutiny by the people, media and political entities. The Observers need to ensure exceptional conduct so that legitimacy and sanctity of the elections are kept intact at any cost. Accessibility and visibility of Observers, quality and timeliness of response has to be ensured to establish credibility. The evidentiary value of Observers' reports many a time become the key factor for ECI to base their judgment.
He said the Observers need to be conversant with all legal provisions, instructions and the latest circulars of ECI for effective implementation on the ground.
The half-day long briefing sessions featured a comprehensive briefing by the Secretary-General ECI Umesh Sinha on Election Planning, Security Management & SVEEP aspects. Sinha, who is also in charge of elections in Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory (UT) of Puducherry at ECI, briefed the officers on specific issues of TN and the UT.
Briefing sessions were also held by Senior Deputy Election Commissioner Dharmendra Sharma on Training of Personnel and inputs on Assam (being State in-charge of Assam elections at ECI); on Electoral Roll issues and IT applications and EVM VVPAT Management System by Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain.
Jain also covered specific issues of the Kerala and West Bengal elections. On legal issues, Model Code of Conduct (MCC) and expenditure monitoring, Deputy Election Commissioner Chandra Bhushan Kumar and Director, Expenditure, Pankaj Shrivastava gave an overview. Sheyphali Sharan, Spokesperson, ECI, briefed the Officers on aspects of Media Certification and Monitoring Committees, Paid News as also the Social Media.
For these elections, ECI has extended the option of Postal Ballot facility to the electors who are marked as Persons with Disabilities (PwD), electors above the age of 80 years, electors employed in notified Essential services and electors who are COVID- 19 positive/suspect as certified by the competent authority and are in quarantine (home/institutional).
Commission’s broad Guidelines for COVID-safe election to be adhered to during the entire election processes for all persons include an increased number of auxiliary polling stations, thermal scanning of all persons, sanitizer and mask use; larger halls with an adequate spacing of counting tables; an adequate number of vehicles mobilized for movement of polling personnel, security personnel to ensure compliance of COVID-19 guidelines as also vaccination for all personnel involved in the electoral process.