Calcutta, Jan. 13: The Election Commission has sought a statewide report on law and order for an assessment before the Lok Sabha polls, government officials said today.
This has prompted the Mamata Banerjee-headed home department to ask every police station in the state — 442 of Bengal police and 65 of Calcutta police — to file reports detailing the law-and-order situation in their area by Wednesday.
A senior commission official in Delhi said Bengal had “traditionally” been a “laggard” in seizing illegal arms, conducting preventive arrests and executing non-bailable warrants before the polls. These, he added, had triggered the poll panel’s decision to assess law and order in the state.
According to Nabanna sources, the home department has to collate the statistics and hand over the report to the commission this week, ahead of a visit by chief election commissioner V.S. Sampath in the last week of this month.
“The home department will look to strike a delicate balance. On the one hand, accurate figures must be furnished to the commission. There is a pressure from Nabanna to paint a rosy picture,” an official said.
The report, officials said, would focus on the number and nature of political clashes, execution of non-bailable warrants, the need for preventive arrests ahead of the polls, seizure of illegal arms and an estimate of sensitivity of areas surrounding the polling stations.
The home department has so far received “100-odd” reports, but officials hoped the Wednesday deadline would be met by most police stations.
“We have worked extra hours for four days now to finish the report. We were asked to take this seriously. We sent it to Nabanna this evening,” an inspector in charge of a Hooghly police station said.
According to the commission official in Delhi, the poll panel would like to give the Mamata Banerjee government “a timely nudge” before the commission assumes charge of the administration once the model code of conduct comes into effect in a couple of months from now.
Ahead of the Assembly polls three years ago, the state was caught sitting on 77,300 non-bailable warrants, most of which were against habitual offenders. Twelve of the 19 districts in the state had over 3,000 pending warrants each.
“Usually, districts such as South and North 24-Parganas, Jalpaiguri, Murshidabad, Nadia, Howrah and East and West Midnapore top the charts in political clashes. For these districts, we have not only sought reports on law and order but also a roadmap on how the administration seeks to go about in bringing the numbers down by the time of the elections,” a Nabanna source said.
“These district administrations will also be asked to execute around a fifth of the pending non-bailable warrants by mid-February,” he added.
According to a state home department official, the chief election commissioner is expected to be in Calcutta in the last week of January.
He will attend programmes on the National Voters’ Day on January 25 and is likely to conduct meetings as part of a stock-taking exercise before the Lok Sabha elections.
The Election Commission official said the poll panel wanted to leave “no stone unturned” to ensure peaceful elections in Bengal.