New Delhi: Election Commission of India today organized a briefing meeting for Observers to be deployed for the forth coming General Election to the Legislative Assemblies of Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal 2021 for which schedule was announced on 26th February, 2021. More than 1650 Observers today participated in the briefing meeting physically and virtually from more than 120 remote locations also. Officers from IAS, IPS, IRS and other Central Services have been included to be deployed as General, Police and Expenditure Observers.
Addressing the Observers, Chief Election Commissioner Shri Arora said that Observers are one of the most important torchbearers of Indian democracy. Shri Sunil Arora recalled that 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 wherein Observers played an important role in the conduct of elections. Taking note of the exemplary work accomplished by the CEO and DEOs of Bihar despite wide spread Covid concerns, ShriArora said Bihar Assembly elections have literally 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. Shri Arora said successful conduct of elections is always a combined feat of field officers and ECI where the Observers and Special Observers also play a vital role. He added that, during these elections, Observers will have additional role in randomization of forces and its deployment. CEC said 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 ECI is to ensure empowered, vigilant, well informed and safe voter. He reminded the Observers that they should be visible and accessible to citizens and enable them to vote fearlessly. He warned the observers that ECI will act swiftly and ruthlessly incase anyone is found to be lax in performing their duties. ECI shall not tolerate any willful lapses, he reiterated.Shri Arora asked the Observers to visit the Polling Booths to check due facilitation to senior citizens, Persons with Disabilitiesand women voter stoensure Commission’s commitment toprinciple of Inclusive Elections.
Election Commissioner ShriSushil Chandra said that in the forthcoming elections, more than 18crore voters would be exercising their right of franchise. Accounting for social distancing norms, more than 80,000 polling stations have been added. He said Observers need to ensure proper direction to Field-level officers so that ECI’s constitutional mandate is scrupulously fulfilled. He called upon Observers for their active interventions and presence which could enable in building confidence among the voters especially in vulnerable areas and make all efforts to curb money power or vices of liquor and freebies with complete involvement of all enforcement agencies. Mr Chandra emphasized that Observers should play an important role in making these elections totally inducement free.
Addressing the officers, Election Commissioner Shri Rajiv Kumar reminded the Observers that their own 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 Election is kept intact at any cost. He said accessibility and visibility of Observers, quality and timeliness of response has to be ensured to establish credibility. Shri Kumar said the evidentiary value of Observers’ reports many a time become the key factor for ECI to base their judgment. Shri Kumar reiteratedthat Observers need to be conversant with all legal provisions, instructions and latest circulars of ECI for effective implementation on the ground.
The half-day long briefing sessions held today had comprehensive briefing by the Secretary General ECI Shri Umesh Sinha on Election Planning, Security Management & SVEEP aspects. Shri Sinha, who is also incharge of elections in State of Tamil Nadu and UT of Puducherry at ECI, briefed the officers on specific state issues of TN and the UT. Briefing sessions were also held by Senior Deputy Election Commissioner ShriDharmendra Sharma on Training of Personnel and inputs on Assam (being State incharge of Assam electionsat ECI); on Electoral Roll issues and IT applications and EVM VVPAT Management Systemby Deputy Election Commissioner Shri Sudeep Jain. Shri Jain also covered specific issues of Kerala and West Bengal elections. Onlegalissues, MCC and expenditure monitoring, Deputy Election Commissioner Shri Chandra Bhushan Kumar and Director Expenditure Shri Pankaj Shrivastavagavean overview. Smt Sheyphali Sharan, Spokesperson ECI, briefedthe Officers on aspects of Media Certification and Monitoring Committees, Paid News as also Social Media.
For these ensuing 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 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 increased number of auxiliary Polling stations, Thermal Scanning of all persons, Sanitizer and mask use; larger halls with adequate spacing of counting tables; 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 electoral process.