EC authorises Special Observers to Order And Monitor Forces Deployment
The Election Commission has given full authority to its special observers in poll bound West Bengal to monitor the state-wide deployment of police and Central para military forces and intervene where they notice any deviation from the approved poll security plan.
The special observers, described by a senior EC functionary as “the face of ECI in the field”, will ensure that the security forces’ presence allays any fear in the people’s minds about coming out to cast their vote, given the past incidents of poll-time political violence in the state.
As per EC’s directions conveyed on Thursday to the special observers —
former Bihar chief electoral officer Ajay Nayak (general observer) and retired IPS officers Vivek Dubey and Mrinal Kanti Das (both police observers) — they shall be in full charge of ensuring equitable area domination by the forces and also see to it that all critical polling booths are properly covered in the deployment plan.
“The special observers shall ensure that the people of West Bengal are able to reach the polling stations to exercise their democratic right. Any fear in their minds should be removed and forces deployed in a way that it instils a sense of confidence in the electors to come out and vote,” said an EC functionary.
As part of their responsibility to oversee the statewide implementation of deployment plans — which, as per EC’s earlier instructions, are to be drawn up by a panel comprising the state chief electoral officer, state nodal police officer and star Central armed police forces coordinator — the observers will be free to decide on ways to assess the implementation of deployment decisions, including making field visits to the ‘critical’ and ‘vulnerable’ areas as they think fit.
For this purpose, the EC has put at their disposal two helicopters requisitioned from the home ministry. One chopper is for West Bengal and will be stationed in Kolkata, while the other chopper has been stationed at Guwahati.
“The special observers have been given a free hand to monitor the poll process and also make interventions at their level to ensure a free and fair election, barring decisions relating to transfers of poll-related officers which will be taken at the level of ECI. They are the face of the Commission in the poll-going states/UTs,” said an EC functionary.
Around 1.2 lakh Central para-military personnel will be deployed in West Bengal amid apprehensions of political violence in the TMC ruled state, voiced by many parties including BJP and CPM.
As per a report sent by the home ministry to EC on January 9, 2021, there were 23 political killings in 2018 panchayat elections in West Bengal and 693 incidents and 11 killings in 2019 Lok Sabha poll.
Between June 1 and December 31, 2019, there were 852 incidents of political violence and 61 deaths. The trend continued with 663 incidents and 57 deaths in 2020 and 23 clashes and 2 deaths between January 1 and January 7, 2021.