The Election Commission (EC) has begun the procedure to gather the data required from the Punjab Police regarding the profile of the Station House Officers (SHOs) posted across the length and breadth of the state. The state police has been given proformas which are to be filled with details of each SHO giving out his duration of stay at the police station along with his or her track record. A senior officer of the office of Chief Electoral Officer Punjab informed that details have also been sought regarding the deployment of the officers during previous elections in order to ascertain whether there is a trend of officers being posted at particular police stations during the electoral process. This data provided by the Police HQs will be sent to the Election Commission of India and will also be analysed at the local level to weed out suspect officials, said a senior CEO official.
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“If any inconsistency is found in the records of if there is a history of complaints against the officer he or she will be immediately changed. In any case those police officers who have completed more than three years in their place of posting have to be moved out,” said an official.
Meanwhile, it is learnt that the commission is in possession of information regarding a senior police official currently posted in Ludhiana against whom several verbal complaints have been received. Against the requirement of the commission, this official, during a recent re-shuffle, is learnt to have been transferred to the jails department in the same city. Further action is likely to be taken by the commission once the officer joins in his new place of posting.
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During the recent visit of the full EC team, special focus had been placed on the functioning of police officers at the police station level. The issue had also been raised in the meeting that the CEC and other members of the EC had with the Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police. Later, the CEC, Dr Naseem Zaidi had also announced in a press conference that since police stations were the places from where most malpractices in electoral process could take place, hence a sharp eye would be kept on them.
Meanwhile, the CEO, VK Singh, Tuesday held a meeting with the Chief Secretary, Punjab, Sarvesh Kaushal where the issue of several polling booths which were relatively inaccessible due to their remote location came up. It is learnt that there are around 155 polling stations out of the total 22600 that will be set up in the state that are not easily accessible. These include villages which are across the rivers at some places and which are also not well connected by mobile telephony.
The various stakeholders were also called in the meeting to chalk out a way in which the EC headquarters and the state level election officials could remain in touch with their staff at such polling stations. “Internet connectivity is also a major issue at such places because if our field staff or flying squad were to move to these places the GPS devices fitted in their vehicles will not be functional,” an official informed. Internet connectivity is a major requirement during the forthcoming assembly polls as around 4000 polling booths will have webcasting facility.
Meanwhile, the commission is yet to respond to the demand raised by various political parties for advancing the date of imposing the electoral code of conduct in the state. The decision will be taken by the ECI and it depends upon a variety of factors, including date of polls in other states, an official said. “Most opposition parties have demanded that the code of conduct be imposed as soon as possible while the ruling combine of SAD-BJP favours as less a time as required so that the government is able to function to its satisfaction till the longest possible time,” the official added.