West Bengal: Election Commission To Send More Security But Unlikely to Cover All Polling Booths
Almost 80 per cent of booths in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong have been identified as sensitive.
The election commission (EC) is unlikely to meet the Opposition and poll officers’ demand of stationing central security forces at every polling booth in West Bengal.
Anandabazaar Patrika reported that EC sources saying that the first three phases would most definitely use local police along with central security forces. The last four phases may have similar arrangements.
The EC told the newspaper, planned security measures would be in place for areas going to the polls from April 29 to May 19, i.e. the last four phases of the election. Just like the first phase, the sensitive booths would receive security from central forces. The rest would be secured by state police.
However, sources at the EC told Anandabazaar Patrika, in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong almost 80 per cent of booths have been identified as sensitive. Hence, most of the polling stations there would receive heavy security.
Southern districts of West Bengal will vote from fourth to the seventh phase. Going by the numbers, the final four phases account for the most number of polling centres in the state. Election analysts also state that politically these four phases are important. Hence, the Opposition parties in the state had asked for more central forces.
As per initial reports from the EC, four central forces will be responsible for areas affected by Maoists. Booths, a quick response team and a strong room will be guarded by central army forces. The remaining security would be handled by armed state police forces.
The EC had earlier stated that contractual workers cannot be involved in security arrangement during elections. The commission has reiterated this stance recently.
There have been allegations that in the first phase that state policemen were spotted wearing central forces’ uniforms. Political analysts say these allegations have led the EC to reiterate their stance on contractual workers.
On Saturday, special central police observer Vivek Dubey presented a report on the first phase of voting in West Bengal to the EC officials in New Delhi.
Sources told Anandabazaar Patrika that before second leg of polling begins, around 130 company forces could be sent to the state, in contrast to just 83 in the first phase.
A state official told Pranesh Sarkar of The Telegraph, “The effective strength of 134 companies is about 10,700. There are 5,000-odd booths in the second phase. As four jawans are deployed in one place, it is tough to cover all booths. Besides, there will be central forces in quick-response teams. We expect more forces.”
Before leaving for the national capital, Vivek Dubey told Anandabazaar Patrika, “I am going to the EC to discuss preparations for the second phase of polling.”
As per reports, sources at the state chief election office said that during the first leg of elections 96 complaints were received from Alipurduar, while 611 complaints came from Cooch Behar. As per guidelines, all complaints were dealt with in 100 minutes.
Earlier, West Bengal polling officers, fearful of their safety, had protested the lack of security forces at polling stations across the state.
During the 2018 panchayat polls, the mutilated body of Raiganj presiding official Rajkumar Roy was found on the railway tracks in North Dinajpur. Pool rigging and vote loot was also reported in 2018.