The Telegraph
Thursday , July 24 , 2014
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Rule relook at booth threat
- EC seeks fresh list of sensitive polling stations

Ranchi, July 23: A polling station cannot be dubbed hyper-sensitive just because it is located in a Naxalite-hit area. Other factors like whether a CRPF camp or a police station is situated nearby will also come into play henceforth.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has listed 10 new parameters for drawing up a fresh list of sensitive and hyper-sensitive booths in Jharkhand ahead of the Assembly polls that’s likely to be held in November.

Chief election commissioner V.S. Sampath, who was on a two-day visit to the state, spelt out the guidelines at a meeting with bureaucratic top brass, including commissioners, IGs, DIGs, deputy commissioners and superintendents of police yesterday.

Stressing on smooth, fair and violence-free polls, Sampath has asked the deputy commissioners (DCs) and superintendents of police (SPs) to identify different categories of polling stations in keeping with the latest directions by the end of this month.

The Union home ministry will be accordingly requested to provide security personnel to the booths during the polls.

“The ECI has set 10 parameters for identification of booths as normal, sensitive and hyper-sensitive. For example, this time, we cannot declare a booth in a Naxalite-affected area hyper-sensitive if it is located close to a CRPF camp or police station. Similarly, we need to also mark out those booths that might witness social tension on the polling day,” said a DC.

He added that earlier, officers-in-charge of police stations used to prepare reports on the status of polling stations based on their past experiences, records and threat perception. “After receiving the reports, we used to make recommendations accordingly. But that will not happen any more,” the DC added.

In the recently held Lok Sabha elections, there were 24,648 regular polling stations and 103 auxiliary polling stations across Jharkhand.

Nearly 70 per cent of these booths fell under sensitive and hyper-sensitive categories with the Naxalite threat being the main deciding factor.

But numerous complaints that supporters of various candidates tried to influence the electorate while they were waiting in queue to cast votes at polling stations, thus triggering tension, prompted the ECI to change its rules. Complaints of inadequate force deployment that, in turn, led to large-scale rigging were also received from various areas.

Speaking to The Telegraph, state chief electoral officer P.K. Jajoria said that this was the first time that the ECI had taken such a move.

“The DCs are expected to submit their reports by July 30. All necessary steps will be taken to plug in the reported loopholes. Barring a few incidents, the last Lok Sabha elections in Jharkhand were by and large peaceful. Ensuring smooth Vidhan Sabha elections is our main objective now,” Jajoria said.

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