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regular-article-logo Friday, 31 May 2024

Election Commission directs DMs to appoint nodal officer from CAPF, tag them with poll control room

During earlier elections CAPF had no direct access to control rooms and troops used to move on instruction of local authorities such as officials appointed by DM or superintendent of police

Snehamoy Chakraborty Calcutta Published 14.04.24, 10:22 AM
Representational image

Representational image File picture

The Election Commission, for the first time on Saturday, directed district magistrates to appoint a nodal officer from the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) and tag the officer with the district poll control room concerned so that the central forces get direct access to information on voting day.

"As per the resolution of the state-level deployment committee held on 6.4.24 in the presence of the special general observer and special police observer, it was decided that one CAPF nodal officer will be appointed at the district level for coordinating with the district control room for effective coordination among all concerned at the district level," the order issued by the state's chief electoral officer reads.

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Each CAPF nodal officer will be tagged to the respective control rooms a day before polling in each of the seven phases of polls to start on April 19.

A source said that during earlier elections the CAPF had no direct access to control rooms and troops used to move on the instruction of local authorities such as officials appointed by the district magistrate or superintendent of police.

"Now, the nodal officer of the central forces will have direct access to control rooms. The commandant or the in-charge of the CAPF battalion will have the liberty to move its forces accordingly," said a state government official.

A senior CAPF official said the move would enhance coordination on poll day.

"Non-coordination remains an issue for us. The order to tag our officer with the control room in a particular district will enhance coordination," he said.

A CAPF source said that having direct access to information will help prevent incidents like Cooch Behar's Sitalkuchi, where four villagers were killed in firing by central force jawans at a booth during the 2021 Bengal polls, by acting speedily.

The BJP has often accused the state police and administration of not using central forces optimally and keeping them away from troubled spots to allow the ruling Trinamul "a free hand" during polls.

The BJP leaders said Saturday's order by the Election Commission was because of their longstanding demand to provide central forces with the freedom of movement and access to information on law and order.

"In earlier polls, we saw how the state authorities did not use central forces adequately and kept them away from troubled pockets.... We expect this time the central force can act freely and promptly," said Samik Bhattacharya, the BJP's Rajya Sabha MP and chief spokesperson for the party in Bengal.

Trinamul leaders said they constantly questioned the Election Commission's neutrality. "The Election Commission did not permit building homes for poor victims in the tornado in Jalpaiguri, and it is enough to understand that the constitutional body is not impartial," said Chandrima Bhattacharya, state finance minister.

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