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Camera in booths

Calcutta, March 30: The Election Commission has decided to use digital cameras for the first time in polling booths of the state to prevent false voting.

During the previous elections, EC-appointed observers would go from booth to booth with photographers on polling day to record the proceedings.

Chief electoral officer Debashis Sen said today that 3,000 digital cameras would be installed in polling booths to keep a record of voters without electronic photo-identity cards and prevent impersonation.

'Installation of cameras will help identify false voters and prevent booth capturing as election authorities will be able to identify irregularities at a booth,' said Sen.

The EC has informed the state government about its decision and the process of procuring the cameras has begun.

With polling to be conducted at 50,000 booths in five phases, about 10,000 booths would be set up for each phase on an average. The 3,000 cameras will be pressed into service in each phase.

According to poll panel directives, district magistrates and superintendents of police, in consultation with election observers, will identify the booths to be placed under camera surveillance.

Booths in areas where electronic photo-identity card coverage has been the lowest and those declared sensitive are likely to be brought under such surveillance. The EC is also contemplating use of cameras in booths where an extremely high percentage of polling took place in the 2001 Assembly elections.

Photographers from the media will not be allowed inside the booths.

The poll panel will also decide on the deployment of central paramilitary forces and state armed forces outside polling booths. The extent of their deployment is being worked out. The forces will be under the EC's command.

Sen said both central forces and state forces would work in tandem at the booths. 'It is not as if only central forces would be used and state armed personnel kept idle. Both will work hand in hand.'

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