What have been the major challenges in the run-up to the Assembly elections in Delhi?
Health of the electoral rolls in Delhi as measured by the indices of electors-to-population (EP) ratio,gender ratio,age-cohort ratio,photo electoral rolls (PER) ratio,18 to 19 years youth ratio and representation of marginalised sections such as the homeless,transgenders,sex workers have been the major challenges in the run-up to the polls. The rolls were inflated overall (1.23 cr against normative value of around 1.15 cr) but,simultaneously,seriously deflated in terms of enrolment of women and youth,especially in the age cohort of 18 to 19,homeless and other marginalised sections.
Have the challenges been overcome and the targets achieved?
A concerted drive was launched with the twin themes of purification and inclusion. Ineligible enrolment of more than 15 lakh people identified during house-to-house survey in the categories of shifted,expired and replicate cases were deleted under the due process of law for purification. Simultaneously,targeted SVEEP (Systematic Voters Education and Electors Participation) interventions in the form of 324 special camps for women enrolment with all-female staff in low gender ratio areas,appointment of 863 campus ambassadors,special BLOs in educational institutions and 110 special camps for youth enrolment,special drives for enrolment of homeless and transgenders were launched.
A parallel drive was launched to collect,compile and host photo images of all electors in our database since PER ratio in Delhi was just 94 per cent as against the 100 per cent mandated by ECI,leaving 7.8-lakh electors without photos in our database. Absence of photos in database has been traditionally a facilitator of possible impersonation during polling. As a result of the concerted drives,the desired EP ratio has been achieved. Gender ratio in electoral rolls in Delhi has,for the first time,crossed 800 (against 1,000 males). It is now 804 against 788 when we started; 18 to 19 years youth representation has shot up from 98,000 to 3.52 lakh,homeless enrolment has increased from just 62 to 7,249 and transgenders from nil to 543. And for the first time,Delhi is going to polls with 100% PER.
Are there areas of concern? What steps have been taken ahead of the polls?
Proper arrangements have been made pursuant to a detailed drill carried out by district magistrates,who are also District Election Officers and District DCPs. The deployment will be based upon assessment of criticality done by the district electoral machinery. A vulnerability mapping exercise has been carried out for the entire city. Adequate mechanisms are being put in place to ensure ethical voting and that no one is forced to vote under any implicit or explicit threat. Under an ongoing exercise,we have identified 612 sensitive pockets in the city,of which 482 pockets are critical and 130 pockets have been identified as very critical. It will be the responsibility of the District Election Officers and DCPs to follow the standard operating procedure and deal with those who threaten and the threatened.
What about the staff on poll duty?
All polling arrangements are in place with sufficient deployment of police and civil personnel,as also central paramilitary forces. Our special focus is to make sure that the entire staff on poll duty it comes to over one lakh personnel also vote. We have made special arrangements for poll duty staff to exercise their franchise.
Are there changes in implementation of the model code of conduct this time?
The model code of conduct is a document voluntarily adopted by political parties to help ensure a level-playing field in the electoral process. It has come into force from the day of announcement of polls,that is October 4. The role of the Election Commission and the electoral machinery is that of a referee. The best matches are where referees dont even have to use cautionary whistles,not to talk of yellow or red cards. We have sensitised political parties in this regard. By and large,we have received their cooperation.
You have already sent 200 notices for possible violation of the model code. Delhi has never seen such a crackdown…
We are trying to hit at the problem of defacement at the very source. Large-scale printing of posters and banners is now being tackled at the source itself. Section 127A of the RP Act,1951,makes it mandatory for the printer and the publisher to print the names and addresses of printer and publisher on the pamphlets and posters,but this rule is rarely followed. The punishment is six months imprisonment.
With a crackdown on printing presses in Delhi by District Election Officers and DCPs,there are inputs that posters and banners printed in NCR areas are being resorted to. We will ensure,in coordination with our counterparts in adjoining states,that printing is done in compliance with the law.
Elections bring complaints of inter-state smuggling of cash,alcohol,musclemen and now posters and banners. Are steps being taken?
Yes. We have a meeting with district magistrates and SSPs from the neighbouring states of UP,Haryana and Rajasthan in the coming week. The agenda of the meeting will include coordination between the neighbouring states on the issue of printing presses,flow of liquor,arms and musclemen,and how to control these. We will work on local intelligence to tap the porous borders along the city.
Are you going to intensify the enforcement drive?
ECI mandates some enforcement systems to be put in place on the date of announcement of elections,others will come into force from the day
elections are notified on November 9. We already have three flying squads in each of the 70 Assembly constituencies that are already reporting violations.