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Holding elections in pandemic times a test for EC

 
New Delhi, Jan 8 (IANS) The assembly elections for five states from notifications to the counting day are going to be a tough nut to crack for the Election Commission, which, has laid out an elaborate protocol for voters and voting booths and of course, its officials.

The EC announced poll schedule for five states -- UP, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa on Saturday.

Starting with face masks during the election related activities and maintaining social distancing norms, the Commission has asked all its polling personnel/security personnel/counting staff to be doubly vaccinated before being deployed/engaged in election related activities.

The polling agent/counting agent etc would not be allowed to enter the counting hall/polling station without full vaccination and in case of those who are not, RT-PCR test within 48 hours would be required. All the entry points to such hall/room/ premises used for election purposes would have a provision for thermal scanning of all persons and sanitizer at all entry points.

One nodal health officer shall be designated for the State Level, the District Level, and the Assembly Constituency Level to oversee COVID related arrangements and preventive measures during the entire electoral process, the EC said.

The other protocols include gloves for officials handling EVM/VVPAT and election material Kit to be prepared and distributed from in a spacious and sufficiently large hall following all safety, sanitation, and social distancing measures. The Kit for the Polling Officer will include PPEs if needed, mask, sanitizer, face shield and gloves.

Similarly, the EC has issued orders for polling arrangements following the Covid protocol.

The assured minimum facilities at each polling station will have mandatory sanitization of Polling Station, preferably, a day before the poll; thermal scanner at the entry point of every polling station location; thermal checking of voters at entry point of polling station location/Polling station, either by polling staff or Para Medical staff or Asha worker; markers to demonstrate social distancing for queue; earmarking circle for 15-20 persons of 2 yards (6 feet) distance for voters standing in the queue depending on the availability of space with separate queues for males, females, and PwD/ Senior citizen voters.

While sanitizer should be provided at the entry/exit point of every polling station, EC said, it also suggested keeping face masks in reserves for those electors who are not carrying the masks.

"During the process of identification of voter, the voters will be required to lower the facemask for identification," the EC guidelines said, adding, at any given time, only one voter shall be allowed to stand in front of each polling official maintaining social distance.

Voters would be provided hand gloves for signing on the voter register and pressing the EVM button for voting.

"Most importantly, COVID patients and all others who may be under quarantine will be allowed to cast their vote at the last hour of the poll day at their respective Polling Stations, under the supervision of health authorities," the EC said.

"Needless to add that anybody violating instructions on COVID-19 measures will be liable to be proceeded against as per the relevant provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, besides legal action under Section 188 of the IPC, and other legal provisions as applicable. District Election Officer should bring this to the notice of all concerned," Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra said.

--IANS
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