Stage set to hold free & fair election in Punjab: CEO

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Chandigarh, (UNI): Punjab is all set for polls with the Office of Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) making all arrangements to ensure free, fair and peaceful elections in the state.

Briefing the media on Saturday, CEO Dr S Karuna Raju informed that total State machinery is working round the clock to ensure peaceful, free and fair elections. He said as many as 2,14,99,804 electorates, including 1,12,98,081 male, 1,02,00,996 female and 727 transgenders. There are 1304 candidates — 1209 male, 93 women and two transgenders, in election fray in 117 constituencies, he said.

He said of total 1304 candidates– 231 are from national parties, 250 from state parties, 362 from unrecognised parties, while 461 are independent candidates. He said as many as 315 contesting candidates are with criminal antecedents.

Dr Raju said 24,689 polling stations and 51 auxiliary polling stations have been established at 14,684 polling station locations of which 2,013 are identified as critical, while 2,952 are vulnerable pockets.

He informed that there would be 1,196 model polling stations, 196 women managed polling stations and 70 PwD managed polling stations. He said webcasting of all the polling stations is being done.

He said as many as 28,328 ballot units and 24740 EVM-VVPATs are being used in this election. There are six assembly constituencies, including Kharar, Sahnewal, Ludhiana South, Payal, Patiala Rural and Patiala with two Ballot Units, he added.

The CEO said apart from three Special State Observers, ECI has appointed 65 General Observers, 50 Expenditure Observers and 29 Police Observers, who are keeping close vigil. As many as 2083 sector officers have been deployed to assist polling parties, he added.

He informed that 17 assembly constituencies in the state have been identified as expenditure sensitive. There are 117 Dispatch Centres and 117 Collection Centres, while 117 EVM Strong Rooms have been established at 67 locations in the state.

He said Assured Minimum Facilities (AMF) including Potable Water, Tent & Chairs, at least one wheel chair at every polling station will be assured. Beside this, every polling station will have COVID-19 material will be placed for disposal of COVID waste material. He said food and refreshments will be provided to all the polling staff. He urged electors coming at polling stations to adhere COVID-19 protocols including wearing masks and maintaining social distance.

He further informed that 4,44,721 people of 80 years above age, 1,38,116 PwD voters and 162 COVID-19 patients have been offered Form 12D for postal ballot facility.

The CEO said 3,48,836 electors of 18-19 years age group would exercise their right of franchise this time and all District Administrations are taking adequate steps to motivate first time voters. He said there are 5,09,405 voters who are above the age of 80 voters, 1,09,624 are service voters and 1,58,341 are Persons with Disability (PwD) voters, while 1,608 are NRI voters.

He said Welcome Kits have been issued to First Time Voters, while Voter Information Guides have been distributed to sensitise people about their voting rights.

Dr Raju said as many as 9,966 GPS enabled vehicles are being used for election related duties. He said over 5,000 buses are being used to send polling parties to polling stations.

Briefing about law and order, he said Police parties deployed across the state have been conducting thorough search to check the flow of liquor, narcotics and money to ensure free and fair elections.

He said all DCs, CPs and SSPs have been keeping strict vigil to check the incidents of distribution of liquor, narcotics and money for inducing the voters and raids would be conducted immediately on receiving information or complaints.

He said since the Model Code of Conduct came into force, various enforcement teams have seized valuables worth Rs 500.70 crores till February 18. He said the Punjab Excise surveillance teams have seized 58.18 lakh litres of liquor worth Rs 35.43 crore while the enforcement wings have also recovered psychotropic substances amounting to Rs 368.60 crores besides confiscating unaccounted cash of Rs 32.52 crore, he added.

Dr Raju said as many as 3,467 FIRs have been registered in the state from January 9 to February 18. He said of total 3,467 FIRs, 93 are related to IPC, 22 under RP Act, 203 of Property Defacement, 40 COVID-19 related, 902 are related with NDPS, 2,109 of Excise, 80 regarding Arms and 18 are others.

He said as many as 17 notices have been issued for causing noise pollution since the model code of conduct came into force.

The CEO informed that they have received a total of 16,637 complaints on cVigil app till February 19 since Model Code of Conduct came into the force, of which, 12,194 complaints have been resolved in less than 100 minutes. “Our teams have handled these complaints in an average handling time of 45 minutes 60 seconds and accuracy rates in 94 per cent,” he added.

Apart from this, he said 619 complaints were received from ECI, of which 565 have been disposed-off, while 54 are under process. Similarly, 507 complaints have been received on National Grievances Redressal Portal (NGRS) of which 467 were disposed-off, while, 40 are under process, he added.

He said 2,805 complaints received through call centre of which 2,616 have been resolved, while, one was defaulted and 189 are under process. Similarly, 2,259 complaints have been received through other sources of which 2,238 were resolved, while 21 are under process.

Dr Raju informed that Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) regarding last 48 hours come into force from 1800 hours, February 18. He also informed that in view of Polls, the Punjab state has been declared a dry day on dates from 1800 hours on February 18 till conclusion of polls on February 20 and there will be complete ban on sale of liquor during this period. He also informed that liquor vendors falling in the radius of 3 kms in the neighbouring states, including J&K, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Union Territory Chandigarh, have also been declared dry day during this period.

Dr Raju said there will be a ban on unlawful assemblies and prohibition on holding of public meetings during the silence period, applicable for the areas/constituencies bound for polls.

Meanwhile, as per the instructions of the Election Commission of India (ECI), the Punjab Government has announced a holiday on February 20 in view of the Assembly election in Punjab to facilitate the voters to exercise their franchise to vote.

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