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Forces sought for polls

Shillong, Dec. 19: Meghalaya will seek additional central forces from the Centre for the 2013 Assembly polls to ensure that the elections are free and fair.

“We have decided to write to the Union home affairs ministry, through the Election Commission of India, demanding 76 companies of central paramilitary forces to be deployed in the state for the elections,” chief electoral officer Prashant Naik told The Telegraph today.

He said at present the state has 22 companies of similar forces and the additional companies would be utilised in various areas of the state, especially in the Garo hills region, which has come under close watch following the presence of militant groups.

Naik today chaired a meeting of deputy commissioners and superintendents of police from all the 11 districts of the state to review the preparations for the polls.

The issues which featured in the meeting focussed on men, materials and machines and also the law and order scenario. With 2,485 polling stations spread across 60 constituencies in 11 districts and 39 blocks, he said at least one-third of them have been identified as “sensitive and hyper-sensitive”.

However, the number of such sensitive and hyper-sensitive polling stations can alter as the elections draw nearer, he added. Naik also said the “first-level testing” of the electronic voting machines (EVMs) is on in all the districts where recognised political parties have been invited to analyse them.

He said the state would require around 4,000 EVMs for the 2013 polls. On the reservations expressed by certain political parties against the machines, Naik differed by stating that there is “reasonable confidence” in the voting devices.

He said the web telecast in some of the polling stations would be undertaken during the elections where people can view the voting process online. Special terminals will also be set up for the use of satellite phones by polling officials in those areas where mobile connectivity is still an issue.

However, he informed that Meghalaya has at least 85 per cent of mobile connectivity.

“In line with the Election Commission’s directive, all the polling stations in the state have been plotted on the Google map,” Naik said.

To facilitate voters in the “disputed” areas along the inter-state boundary, he said a meeting would be convened with the Assam officials to ensure that there will be no hiccups during the polls.

In the past, there have been instances where Assam officials have reportedly stopped residents along the inter-state boundary who have been enrolled in the electoral rolls of Meghalaya to cast their vote.

“We will be meeting Assam government officials to ensure better coordination during the elections,” Naik said.

At the same time, he said Election Commission officials are likely to visit the poll-bound state in the first week of January to review Meghalaya’s preparedness for the elections.