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regular-article-logo Friday, 23 February 2024

Central forces to mainly mark ‘sensitive’ booths for Saturday’s rural polls, says BSF

Only 4,834 booths, or 7.8 per cent of the total number of booths across the state, have been identified by the commission as ‘sensitive’

Sougata Mukhopadhyay Calcutta Published 07.07.23, 04:49 PM
Security personnel conduct a march ahead of West Bengal panchayat elections.

Security personnel conduct a march ahead of West Bengal panchayat elections. PTI picture

Contrary to the Bengal State Election Commission’s proposal to deploy one armed jawan from the central forces, matched by another armed state police personnel, at each of the 61,636 booths where polling for Saturday’s three-tier panchayat elections are scheduled, the Calcutta High Court-appointed Force Coordinator has now laid out his plan to position central forces prioritizing only the sensitive booths.

Only 4,834 booths, or 7.8 per cent of the total number of booths across the state, have been identified by the commission as ‘sensitive’. With the final dispatch of central forces, some from as far-flung areas like Leh, reaching the state on Friday afternoon, the deployment would have to be made all through the night, it was learnt.

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In a communication sent to the SEC and copy marked to senior state police authorities and the Union home ministry, SC Budakoti, IG BSF and the Force Coordinator for the rural polls broke down the deployment pattern of the central forces in which no less than half section of forces, or four jawans, would be deployed at each polling booth.

Since each Company has around 80 active armed jawans and each section comprises eight personnel, the 822 companies of available forces would permit the force commanders to deploy the little over 65,000 active central forces. The Force Coordinator’s decision to not break up the Sections to less than half means central forces cannot be deployed at each of the 61,000-odd booths. The deployment formula as spelt out by the IG, BSF is as follows: Half section of jawans at polling premises hosting up to two booths; one section (eight jawans) at premises having three-four booths; one-and-a-half sections (12 jawans) at premises with five-six booths and two sections (16 jawans) at premises which would have seven polling booths or more.

One Company of CAPF would be guarding each strong room where ballot boxes would be stored for counting after the polls get over, the communication stated.

With the Calcutta High Court directing the SEC to maintain a 50:50 ratio of central and state forces at every polling station of the state, it wasn’t clear how the commission, with about 70,000 state armed police at its disposal, plans to achieve that by fitting into the new deployment pattern spelt out by the Force Coordinator.

Meanwhile, government employees earmarked for election duty reportedly agitated at various Dispersion and Receipt Centres (DC/RC) of the state demanding for adequate security during the polls. Some groups even put their feet down stating they would not move to their respective booth until central forces were deployed there.

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