Chief election commissioner VS Sampath with state chief electoral officer PK Jajoria at the news meet in Ranchi on Sunday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Jharkhand voters numbering a sizeable 2.03 crore, please expect shamiyanas, toilets and drinking water at Lok Sabha polling stations across the state on the triple Thursdays — April 10, 17 and 24.
Summer scorchers will be busted with basic comforts at booths, promised chief election commissioner Veeravalli Sundaram Sampath, who was in Ranchi on Sunday to review Lok Sabha preparations in all 14 seats of Jharkhand, chairing a battery of meetings with selected political party representatives and officials.
Deputy commissioners, superintendents of police, DIGs, IGs, divisional commissioners and other high-ranking bureaucrats attended the meetings. Then, Sampath held a high-powered conclave with chief secretary, director general of police and home secretary to gauge steps in “sensitive” areas, followed by meetings with chief income tax commissioner, senior enforcement directorate and directorate of intelligence officials.
Talking to the media at the end of all the meetings, he said: “We have directed shamiyanas, toilets and drinking water facilities at every booth that is not held near a building with these facilities. We have conveyed these to the deputy commissioners. Poll preparations in Naxalite-affected areas can’t be disclosed. But I have found the arrangements satisfactory.”
On his interaction with political party representatives, he said: “It was a good discussion. They came up with suggestions and complaints. We took note of complaints and suggestions and will act accordingly.”
Giving an instance, he said: “One political party said district electoral officers were putting limits on number of running vehicles. So we directed officials not to put any limit but rather give permission to as many vehicles asked for and put them under the party’s expenditure list.”
On copter use, Sampath said political party functionaries must give officials exact landing location and movement schedules.
Presiding officers have also been instructed to report to the commission after depositing the EVMs at the strongrooms instead of going straight to their respective homes.
“This time we have deployed 14 general, 30 expenditure, five police and three awareness observers across the state. This apart, there will be 256 static surveillance teams during the elections, 295 flying squads, 1,570 micro observers and 865 video cameras, among others,” he said.
Over and above all, Sampath said every official of all rank and file had been directed to maintain “absolute neutrality”.
Answering The Telegraph on why not even a single constituency in Jharkhand would get EVM machines linked with voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT), a gadget that generates a slip confirming the symbol and candidate voted for, Sampath said: “As of now we have only 20,000 such EVMs. In Jharkhand, all EVMs to be used are before 2006, which don’t have the VVPAT. Expect them in your Assembly elections.”