Guwahati: Election Commission of India (ECI) organized a briefing meeting for poll-expenditure observers to be deployed in the forthcoming Assembly elections of Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry for which the schedule was recently announced. Assam chief electoral officer Nitin Khade along with additional CEO Vinod Seshan and election expenditure observer Sujith Sompur participated in the virtual briefing on 3 March. Over 1650 observers participated in the briefing from various locations. Officers from IAS, IPS, IRS, other central services have been inducted as general, police and expenditure observers. The election commissioner Sushil Chandra informed that over 18 crore voters would exercise their franchises in the forthcoming State elections, for which more than 80,000 polling stations have been added to maintain the social distancing norm. Chandra commented that the deployed observers need to ensure proper direction to the ground level officers so that ECI’s constitutional mandate is scrupulously fulfilled. He emphasized the observers to play an important role in making these elections totally inducement(money, liquor, freebies, etc) free. Addressing the officers, election commissioner Rajiv Kumar reminded the observers that their own conduct would be under scrutiny by the people, media, political entities etc. He stated that accessibility and visibility of observers, as well as quality and timeliness response, have to be ensured. Kumar also added that they need to be conversant with all legal provisions, ECI instructions and circulars for effective implementation on the ground. The half-day long briefing also witnessed briefings by ECI secretary-general Umesh Sinha, senior deputy election commissioner Dharmendra Sharma, ECI spokesperson Sheyphali Sharan, etc. The option of postal ballot facility to persons with difficulties, above the age of 80 years, employed in notified essential services, infected with novel coronavirus, etc was also discussed thoroughly. ECI’s broad guidelines for Covid-19 will have adhered to everyone involved in the electoral exercises where an increased number of auxiliary polling stations, thermal scanning of all persons, use of sanitiser and mask, larger halls with adequate space, adequate number of vehicles mobilized for movement of polling and security personnel, vaccination for all concerned personnel, etc are highlighted.
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