Calcutta, April 11: Police observers will be deployed in all 42 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal this time, making it the first and so far the solitary big state where the police administration will be brought fully under the supervision of IPS officers from elsewhere.
The police observers, being tried out for the first time now in a general election, are empowered to monitor all activities related to deployment of forces, law and order and liaise with the civil administration.
Such observers, usually drawn from among senior IPS officers with experience in election-related work and known for their integrity, report directly and only to the Election Commission.
Till now, Bengal was supposed to receive only eight such observers meant for nine seats. However, the commission has decided to cover all the seats in the state in view of feedback and complaints from the Opposition during the full-bench visit to the state last weekend, sources in Delhi said.
Bengal is the only state with more than 30 seats where the police observers will be deployed in all seats, commission sources said.
Although the administration comes under the Election Commission as soon as polls are announced, the local police play a key role in implementing ground-level decisions.
Away from the glare of the commission, the police often drag their feet — as was evident from the inaction after a BDO was allegedly assaulted in North 24-Parganas and a monitoring team was beaten up yesterday in Malda.
In Malda, Bengal police arrested the four suspects, including a Trinamul minister’s son-in-law, named in the FIR only after the commission set a 5pm deadline today for the DGP to act. ( )
The exact location of force deployment is another area where the police can play favourites. The police observers are expected to plug such loopholes.
The concept of police observers was tried out last year in various Assembly elections and is being extended to the Lok Sabha polls this year.
The commission has sent Bengal’s chief electoral officer Sunil Kumar Gupta the names of 17 IPS officers from various states who would be in charge of policing during the polls. Each officer will be given the responsibility of two or three seats over multiple phases.
“The Opposition has been demanding 42 police observers, like in the case of general and expenditure observers, but we don’t have so many IPS officers at our disposal. That is why 17 officers will handle the 42 seats,” said a commission source in Delhi.
“Even after removing some IPS officers after complaints of bias and inaction, the commission was not sure of impartial policing during the poll process. Impartiality of the police administration is crucial for free and fair polls. That is why the police administration will be placed under these 17 officers who will be directly under the Nirvachan Sadan,” he added.
Out of the seven officials who were taken off poll duty in Bengal after charges of bias, four were superintendents of police.