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EC double check to clean up rolls

Calcutta, Feb. 17: Not happy with the drive to weed out bogus voters from municipal and urban areas, the Election Commission has asked Bengal's chief electoral officer to initiate a fresh move involving civic staff after publication of the final voter list.

Chief electoral officer Debasish Sen has already written to municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya, informing him about the requirement of municipality employees for the job.

The poll panel had earlier said it would do everything required to make voter lists foolproof and that the revision was a continuing process that could go on even after the final rolls are published on February 22.

But the commission's latest instruction is a step beyond what it had said earlier. The new directive calls for the ap-pointment of nodal officers who will work with a senior civic officer to find out whether dead and shifted voters still find place on the final rolls.

District magistrates, also the district election officers, will appoint nodal officers for the 126 municipalities across the state. Additional or deputy district magistrates would serve as the nodal officers.

Civic employees will have to work in co-ordination with the nodal officers.

These officers will have to submit daily reports on the verification of the final rolls to the district election officers, who will submit them to the chief electoral officer after a thorough scan. The chief electoral officer would place the reports before the commission in Delhi.

As Calcutta does not have a district magistrate, the city has been divided into three parliamentary districts ' North East, North West and South with IAS officers Kali Bandopadhyay, Chittaranjan Das and B.P. Gopalika deputed to act as the district election officers.

After a meeting with the trio today, Sen said CMC employees would assist them.

The rolls have already seen the biggest overhaul in recent times with 9.89 lakh names deleted and 21 lakh added to it till January 24.

After being briefed by the 19 election observers who toured Bengal last month, the commission believes that there could be more cases that require scrutiny.

'The EC wants a clean voters' list and it believes that the fresh drive will have a greater impact in ensuring deletion of bogus, dead and shifted voters,' Sen said.

A counsel on behalf of the commission today assured Calcutta High Court that all possible measures would be taken to hold free and fair Assembly elections in the state. 'My client is taking all measures for publishing correct voter lists and will take every measure so that people of Bengal can cast their votes freely,' advocate L.C. Behani said.

Expressing satisfaction over what he said, the division bench of Chief Justice V.S. Sirpurkar and Justice A.K. Mitra disposed of a petition seeking an order directing the commission to hold elections only after preparing a 'flawless voters' list'.

The court said: 'We hope and trust that the EC will live up to its assurance.'

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