EVEN as filing of nominations for the first phase of panchayat polls starts Wednesday,the state government is short of 70,000 police personnel for the polling day of July 2. Nine out of 17 districts will go to the polls on the day.
The state government has so far arranged for only 48,000 personnel much less than the 1.18 lakh armed police personnel demanded by the State Election Commission (SEC) for the first phase.
The shortfall is such that for the period when nominations will be filed for the three phases,between May 29 and June 5,the state has rustled up only 3,500 men. The SEC wanted deployment of 30,000 personnel.
The second and third phase of elections are on July 6 and July 9,respectively.
The state government has today written to state election commissioner Meera Pandey about the security arrangement for the panchayat elections.
We have written to the SEC on what our requirements are,what the gap is. We have also informed her (Pandey) about how many security personnel are available for area domination, said Home Secretary Basudeb Banerjee at Writers Building today.
SEC officials said they received the governments letter late in the evening. We will react tomorrow on this letter. But we have left instructions that if a candidate finds it difficult to file nominations,he or she should inform the observer concerned soon, SEC Secretary Tapas Roy said.
Observers of all the 329 blocks have been asked to report to the BDO and SDO offices concerned across the state
Home Secretary Banerjee has also revealed that the government has written to Punjab,Madhya Pradesh and Orissa,seeking 50 companies of forces each from them.
Sources said the state government is talking to other states,including Chhatisgarh,Bihar,Assam and Jharkhand,for forces,
Interestingly,the state government has reportedly not sought forces from Tripura,a Left-ruled state,from where the earlier Marxist government had always got forces.
What has made matters worse is the recent Naxalite attack on a Congress rally at Chhatisgarh that saw 24 people dead.
As the Left Wing Extremist-affected states are most unlikely to respond to the state governments demands for forces,the government will have to explore new grounds to get forces.
The state government is,however,hopeful that it will get the required number of forces. The Election Commission asked for 63 companies of central forces for the Howrah by-poll. We first got 10 companies,but later got another 10. Just yesterday we received a communication from Ministry of Home Affairs about getting another 10 companies. So far as other states are concerned,it is a question of reciprocity. For example,Madhya Pradesh is going for polls at year-end,they know that if they provide people now,they will get forces in their hour of need, Banibrata Basu,ADG,Law and Order,said.
The ADG further said that 34 companies of CRPF and five companies of armed police from Nagaland are stationed at Junglemahal now.
Govt officials meet Governor
A delegation of state government officials,led by Chief Secretary Sanjay Mitra,met Governor M K Narayanan Tuesday and apprised him of the state governments preparations for the panchayat polls. The Governor has asked for the details of security arrangements and we have given that, said Banibrata Basu,ADG,Law and Order.
Cong writes to SEC about shortage of stamp papers
STATE CONGRESS president Pradeep Bhattacharya has written to the State Election Commissioner that non-judicial stamp papers of Rs 10 denomination at gram panchayat/block levels were not easily available. In the letter,he had also pointed out the problems of candidates owing to fewer number of first class magistrates and public notary at the block level. The elaborate form-filling exercise is also a deterrent, he said.