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EC mantra to beat the heat

Jorhat, March 15: Come the Lok Sabha elections next month, voters will be asked to bring wet towels to protect themselves against dehydration. Women will be asked not to bring children along with them to polling stations to skip the heat.

This is part of a directive on health facilities issued by the Election Commission to the chief electoral officers of the states and Union Territories and the same has been forwarded to the districts.

The directive, issued by commission secretary Sumit Mukherjee, has stated that the regular feedback received by the commission on condition of polling stations on the day of voting during elections in recent times had mentioned lack of proper facilities and guidance for voters.

The directive said as a result of the same, there had been “long waiting hours and chaos” at polling centres, which had dissuaded voters from coming out to exercise their franchise. Mukherjee said as hassle-free voting conditions encourage people to exercise their franchise, the district election officers (district magistrates and sub-divisional magistrates) should undertake steps to provide basic healthcare facilities for large turnout of voters.

The letter asked the districts to provide covered shelter for voters at every polling centre and, if necessary, have extra rooms available in the building opened for the voters to take rest. The directive said that in order to provide first-aid facility to the electorate, every polling party should be provided with oral dehydration salts for their own use as well as for any voter needing the same because of the heat.

A pamphlet on “dos and don’ts” in case of a heat-stroke should be prepared and given to each polling party, along with a small first-aid kit containing basic medicines with instructions to be prepared in consultation with the district chief medical officer.

Another instruction was to depute one member from the paramedical staff with the mobile patrol unit and sector officers in their vehicles along with heat-stroke medicines. These mobile patrol units will visit each polling centre once in every hour so that instant medical assistance could be provided to any voter needing it. This service will be in addition to the first-aid kit given to the polling parties.

The directive stated that for proper queue handling at a polling centre, differently-abled persons should be given priority. In case of a blind or an infirm person, a companion should be allowed to enter the centre to assist him/her in casting the vote.

Mukherjee said the commission regretted that though specific instructions had been issued regarding the material and size to be used for voting compartments, this had not been implemented.

The commission said in some cases, flimsy materials like dhoti, lungi, saree and gunny bags were found to be used to make the voting compartments, instead of cardboard and flex board which are opaque and reusable.