The upcoming November 9 assembly elections will mark many ‘firsts’ for Himachal Pradesh. Besides the use of voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) at 7,521 polling stations, the state will see differently abled people and women manning five and 136 booths respectively for the first time.
Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Pushpendra Rajput said on Tuesday the Election Commission had already announced about two polling stations in each constituency (total 68) being manned by women. Rajput said that now it had been decided that disabled people would be in-charge of five booths. “Most of these people have themselves volunteered to make a new beginning, which is a welcome step,” he said.
In another new initiative, the EC has decided to issue voter slips to visually impaired people in braille. Rajput said some signs at polling booths would also be in braille so that the blind people could cast their votes without any hassles. The EC has already mapped all the booths where disabled and old people will vote and has assured them of all facilities. A ‘Booth Atlas’ has been prepared and voters can get it from the EC website.
Rajput said after the EC’s awareness programme, the number of registered voters in Himachal Pradesh had gone up to 50,25,541 (25,31,321 males and 24,57,032 females). He said the registration of new voters (18-19 age group) had also increased this year and the Elector-Population (E-P) and gender ratio had also gone up to 676 and 971 respectively. In 2014, the E-P and gender ratio was 655 and 956 respectively.
The CEO said there were 37,574 service voters and all of them have been provided postal ballots electronically. However, Rajput refused to comment on Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) staff, who will be on duty on the polling day and will not be able to cast their votes. “The issue is under the consideration of the High Court. The EC has said only staff on duty for elections should be provided postal ballots,” the CEO said. Rajput said nearly Rs 50 crores would be spent on the elections.
The election staff will start door-to-door distribution of voter slips from November 1 and polling parties will leave on November 7. Regarding law and order, Rajput said there would be an adequate deployment of paramilitary forces, police and home guards to ensure fair and smooth voting. “The inter-state border points have been covered under CCTV camera and vigil has been upgraded. More than 80 per cent of the weapons have been deposited by their holders,” he said.
ADGP (law and order) Atul Verma said 15 companies of paramilitary forces have already reached the state and 50 more would join them. The government has sought 10 more companies for deployment. The police have seized huge quantities of liquor, drugs and cash, while three kg of gold was recovered in Simaur district.