IMPHAL, 22nd FEB: Allaying apprehension that the on-going economic blockade of United Naga Council (UNC) might affect the poll process in Manipur, chief election commissioner (CEC) Dr Nasim Zaidi announced that all arrangements are being made to ensure free and fair elections.
“We have all the data from our state election machinery and is confident that the economic blockade will not impact the poll process in the state,” Dr Zaidi said while briefing newspersons on the two-phase assembly elections at Hotel Classic Grande on Wednesday, adding that the state government has also assured all possible help to ECI.
Noting that over 260 candidates are in the fray for the 60-seat assembly polls, he informed that leaders of political parties and stakeholders concerned have been consulted to seek their views on the issues and problems afflicting manipur along with recording feedbacks from them.
“We will get cooperation from all the sections,” Dr Zaidi said while confiding that various security check points, including 100 mobile check posts, have been established at strategic locations to thwart transportation of intoxicating items and unaccounted money.
In most of the polling stations the voting process will be webcast and video recorded while one helicopter would be on standby from March 4 till 11 to meet election-related emergencies, he said, adding that police, excise and income tax officials have been instructed to maintain high vigil.
On how the EC will ensure smooth movement of election officials and security personnel as the state is hit by fuel shortage, he said, “We have undertaken a very in-depth review with our district and state officials. As far as the election process is concerned there is priority on sufficient availability of petrol and diesel for poll process.”
Zaidi said adequate number of central forces will be deployed for each phase and each polling station will be adequately covered by them. Regarding law and order situation, he said: “We have reviewed the situation. District and police officials are taking all possible measures and preventive action, advance area domination, confidence building measures and all related standard drills. As on today we are reasonably satisfied that action is underway and all other action will be underway in the days to come”.
Zaidi said 20 each general, election-related police and expenditure observers and seven awareness observers have been deployed to monitor election-related activities.
“Eighteen assembly constituencies have been identified as sensitive, while 352 villages/localities have been identified as vulnerable, 837 polling stations categorised as critical polling stations. Special security arrangements have been made in these areas to enable voters to cast their votes,” the CEC maintained. The commission also said that since January 4 around Rs 38 lakh cash, 51,754 litre of liquor and narcotics worth Rs 8 crore have been seized besides noted that out of the total of 20,178 licenced guns, 10,041 of them, including 701 guns under the exempted category, have been deposited to the police station concerned till date.
Noting that surrendering of 53.2 per cent of the licenced guns ahead of the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly election is a healthy rate compared to only 5.6 per cent deposited in the run-up to the 2014 parliamentary elections and 13.5 per cent deposited during the 2012 assembly elections, he opined that licenced holders voluntarily depositing the firearms is an encouraging sign to check poll-related crimes.
In addition to activating 70 income tax teams to crack down on flow of unaccounted for money, a toll free round the clock control room (1800-345-3822) is informed to have been opened. Moreover, information on any unethical election practices can also be uploaded on WhatsApp numbers 8794007400, 8257965611 and 8257865622.
Dr Zaidi said IT officials are monitoring suspicious transfer of money in banks, adding that special check posts will be set in inter-state and international border areas like Moreh, Churachandpur, Pallel and Jessami. He also declared that all poll-related information uploaded on the social media will come under the MCMC scanner and such material would be accounted as expenditure of the candidate concerned.
For the first time, voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) would be used for the polls in Singjamei, Uripok, Thoubal, Nambol, Yaiskul and Khurai assembly constituencies for which 916 VVPAT machines would be utilised. All arrangements would also be made for convenient voting by the differently abled electors.
On the demand of certain political parties that some of their candidates be given proper security cover, Dr Zaidi said, “We have directed that candidates be given security by the state government as per established norms of threat perception”. While confiding that reports from the district authorities have been received about their preparedness to hold the elections in the right purpose, he reiterated that the indefinite economic blockade is unlikely to have any major impact on the state polls.
Source: The People’s Chronicle