The Election Commisison of India (EC) has said that it is aware of the problem of drugs in Punjab and that these could be distributed during the election process hence, a robust strategy is being developed which will be put in place even before the code of conduct is imposed in order to curtail the availability of drugs in the state well before actual polling.
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Addressing a press conference here today at the end of the three day visit to Punjab by the Election Commisison, the Chief Eelection Commissioner (CEC), Dr Naseem Zaidi, said that, “All stake holders have brought out the issue of use of drugs in elections. The commisison has taken a very serious note of the feedback given by all stake holders about wide prevalence of use of drugs and the feedback given by the political parrties that drugs might be distributed in the election process. The commisison has taken a very serious note of it and we are working our strategy to prevent its use”.
Zaidi said that the EC has carried out a review with all enforcement agencies, including state narcotics bureau, central narcotics bureau and have asked them to prepare a very robust strategy by November 15. “It will be activated before code of conduct so that we can curtail the use before the elections to a large extent. The commission is committed and has strong willpower to stop the misuses,” said Zaidi.
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The CEC also said that a warning has been sounded to all officials concerned with the polling process and they have been told to act in a unbiased and neutral manner. “We have told the election machinery of the state in very clear terms that from now onwards they should act in totally unbiased, neutral manner and independent manner without any external poliitcal influence. We have reviewed the situation with the Chief Secretary and the DGP and we have also told them that it must be ensured that no official of the state is under any external influence and they must work under the rule of law. We have also made it clear that if any official is found wanting in this apect is found to be not neutral then he will be taken action against him, penal as well as civil,” the CEC said.
Giving details about the deliberations held with the political parties of Punjab, Zaidi said that an important feedback is that local civic and police officials are influenced by halka in-charges of the ruling party and have requested overhauling of police and civil administration.”The focus of the commisison is at police station level and we have created a database of police stations to fix the places where the police officers are under the influence of local politicians. The police station is the place where the activities of all criminal and anti-social elements tcan be controlled and all officials at this level will be under our radar and and sharp eyes,” Zaidi said.
The CEC said that the commisison has been informed by the political parties that there is a likelihood of violence taking placde during polls so the EC has taken a very serious note of it. He said the EC was already in discussion with the state police officials and district level police officials and will take all steps to ensure that the elections are peaceful. “Vulnerable area mapping and execution of non-bailable warrants is being expedited,” he said.
Political parties have also asked the EC to take steps to ensure that religion and politics is not mixed during polls. The CEC said that the EC was concerned with these issues for the duration of elections and was clear that caste or religion could not be used as an inducement to garner votes.
The CEC informed that stake holdersb have given the feedback that posting of civil and police officials must be reviewed and EC should not allow them to be associated with polling process if they are found to be compromised. “Parties feel that a special task force should be set up to tackle the problem of drugs, liquor and money distribution in elections and these officials should be independent of local influence..They have also asked for the model code of conduct to be put in polace as soon as possibe,” said the CEC.
The political parties in opposition have also asked the commisison to impose a ban on ‘Neela Card’ or blue cards for ration being distributed by the ruling combine saying that these carry the photographs of the ruling political leaders and will influence the voters.
The CEC also gavfe out details of other measures being taken to make the elections voter friendly. He said that mapping of disabled voters is being done to know their numbers booth-wise so that adequate facilities could be provided to thjm. Polling stations will also be set up at leper homes to enable them to cast their votes, he informed. The EC said that the commisison 3expects that the voting percentage in these assembly polls will go ypto beyond 80 per cent from the previous 75 per cent recorded in the 2012 polls.
Electronic ballot for defence personnel for first time
For the first time in the country, defence services and para military forces personnel deployed in far flung brorder areas will have the facility of electronic ballot paper. This has been approved by the ministry of law and justice and will be implemented for the first time in Punjab elections. “It is a historic step for inclusive participation in polling process and we are in talks with nthe Ministry of Defence to update the database of soldiers. As of now 1 lakh nine thousand service voters are registered in punjab on electroral rolls, the CEC said.