Search
+

    Bihar election calendar to be worked out keeping Covid concerns in mind: CEC Arora

    Synopsis

    ​Optional postal ballot voting facility will be provided to those above 80 years, persons with disability. The SVEEP (systematic voter education and electoral participation) strategy is being modified to ensure that ‘no voter is left behind’.

    In the picture: Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora

    Amid demands to defer the Bihar assembly elections due to Covid-19, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora says all necessary preparations are underway, new SOPs are being brought out to ensure that ‘no voter is left behind’ and the election calendar will be worked out keeping in mind the pandemic-related concerns. Excerpts from an interview with Anubhuti Vishnoi.


    BIHAR POLLS AMID COVID
    All necessary preparations to conduct the Bihar elections in time are underway at the Election Commission of India, state and district level. The election schedule will be worked out keeping in view the logistics, weather, school calendar, security and pandemic status and with all related law and order authorities, health officials, national, state and district-level agencies. Necessary suggestions of political parties are taken into consideration. All the recognised parties have been asked to furnish their views by July 31. Meetings with agencies/ministries are already being held, besides regular reviews with local and central administration authorities.


    ENSURING TURNOUT

    A reassessment of procedures at various stages of the election is being worked out by a team of officials in the Commission. The SVEEP (systematic voter education and electoral participation) strategy is being modified to ensure that ‘no voter is left behind’. The ECI guidelines pertaining to electoral machinery, voters, political parties, candidates and other stakeholders are also being tweaked. We will step up the use of digital technologies in voter awareness, outreach and training. The Commission will make greater use of digital and media platforms, including bulk SMS, social media, television advertising, FM and community radio, NVSP (national voter service portal) and the Voter Helpline App. The Voters Guide will be updated to reflect the Covid imperatives.


    PREPARATIONS
    All necessary preparations are underway. The ECI has directed the CEO, Bihar, to limit the number of electors per polling station to a maximum of 1,000 (as opposed to the current limit of 1,500) so that social distancing can be observed. CEO, Bihar, has already assessed and identified 33,797 additional polling stations to be created. This will reduce the average number of electors per polling station from 985 to 678. The commission has introduced measures like Booth App for better queue management.

    Related requirements of additional polling personnel (approx 1.8 lakh), sector officers, vehicles etc. have been worked out to cater to better management. CEO, Bihar, has been provided additional number of EVMs, including VVPATs.

    He has been directed to launch a campaign to enroll left-out citizens. This will help those eligible migrants, who would have returned to the state and are not registered as electors. The state has mapped 6,68,547 PwD electors.

    Optional postal ballot voting facility will be provided to those above 80 years, persons with disability, electors engaged in essential services as also Covid positive electors who are on home or institutional quarantine.

    At present, the work of First Level Check is continuing in all districts in the presence of representatives of political parties. CEO, Bihar, has conducted meetings with all concerned recognised political parties.


    VOTERS/POLLING BOOTH

    A booth size with 250 electors is not in the consideration of the Commission in view of the formidable logistical challenges of additional manpower and other resources.


    ‘DIGITAL’ CAMPAIGNS

    Political parties are the most important stakeholders in the election process after, of course, the electors. The commission is always open to meetings with representatives of political parties whenever they seek time or when we invite their suggestions. Campaigning is a major concern, so ECI is seeking their inputs. The Election Commission hasn’t prescribed any specific mode of campaign.
    The Economic Times