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Tight security for Round III

The vast tracks of diara land on the banks of the state’s two important rivers — the Ganga and the Kosi — would be under the hawk eyes of gun-toting security personnel during the third phase of the general election when votes will be cast in the seven Lok Sabha constituencies on April 24.

The state administration has made elaborate security arrangements in all the seven Lok Sabha constituencies in general and the diara belt, in particular, to ensure free, fair and violence-free elections. “Arrangements have been made for river patrolling on high-speed boats and the mounted military police (on horseback) would patrol the diara belt,” chief secretary A.K. Sinha said on Monday.

Sinha said a number of booths were located in the diara belt and keeping a close watch on troublemakers was a tough task for the security personnel. “But we have made special arrangements for the riverine belt keeping its topography and the problems faced by the security personnel in mind. Officials in the rank of deputy collectors (in the rank of additional district magistrates) and deputy superintendents of police would be deployed from the state headquarters so that they can take decisions accordingly,” added the chief secretary.

Apart from these, special arrangements for telecommunication devices have also been made for such areas. “There are certain areas where cellphones don’t work. For such places, we have made arrangements for satellite phones. Instructions have been issued to the senior officials of the districts concerned to make adequate arrangements for telecommunication devices for the diara belt,” Sinha said.

The seven Lok Sabha constituencies going to polls in the third phase are Bhagalpur, Banka, Supaul, Araria, Kishanganj, Purnea and Katihar.

Several criminal gangs virtually run a parallel administration in the riverine belt of Bhagalpur and its adjoining districts owing to lack of regular patrolling. A major part of diara land is still inaccessible to the police.

In all, 221 companies of the security forces, including 147 companies of the central paramilitary forces, would be deployed in the seven constituencies spread across eight districts to ensure free, fair and peaceful poll. In addition, 27,500 personnel of the district armed police and 7,000 home guard jawans would be assigned poll duty.

Giving break-up of the security forces, the chief secretary said 35 companies of the Border Security Force, 34 companies of the Central Reserve Police Force, 12 companies of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, 26 companies of Sashastra Seema Bal, five companies of the Central Industrial Security Force, 15 companies of the Railway Protection Force and 20 companies of the MP Special Auxiliary Police Force have been drafted for poll duty.

He claimed that the central paramilitary forces would man all sensitive booths. Besides, arrangements have also been made for aerial surveillance of the constituencies. “The tolas and hamlets inhabited by the voters belonging to the weaker sections have already been identified and preventive steps initiated to instil a sense of security among them.”

The state administration has already prepared the list of the hamlets inhabited by the voters of weaker sections. Besides, action has been initiated against around 3.36 lakh persons under sections 107 and 110 of the CrPC of which 64,971 suspected troublemakers have been booked in the eight districts where elections would be held on April 24.

Similarly, 47,961 suspected troublemakers have been arrested. Of them, 5,957 arrests were made from the eight districts. Likewise, 11,388 licenced weapons have been deposited to prevent misuse of the firearms for intimidating voters. “It’s a fact that some parts of Banka are affected by Maoist activities. We have also made adequate arrangements for the booths located in Maoist-hit areas,” Sinha added.

He said the second phase recorded an increase of over 12 per cent voter turnout.