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No Covid Restrictions For Urban Poll

Bhubaneswar: As Covid-19 situation has improved a lot in Odisha, the State Election Commission (SEC) has decided to conduct the general election of Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) without Covid-19 restrictions.

State Election Commissioner, Aditya Prasad Padhi said here today while talking to Media Persons that the daily Covid count has come down to below 200 and the test positivity rate (TPR) has also remained in between 0.25 to 0.3 percent in the State, during the past few days.  

So, the Commission has decided that there will be no Covid-19 restrictions during the voting and campaigning for the urban election in the State, he said. However, if the cases increase in coming days, necessary instructions will be issued in this regard, SEC Mr.Padhi said.     

For the first time, there will be direct election to the post of Chairperson and Mayor in the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). So, two EVMs will be deployed in each booth, one for the chairperson/mayor and another for the Councillor/ Corporator.

SEC Mr.Padhi said one presiding officer and four polling officers will be engaged in each booth for smooth conduct of the election. Unlike the Panchayat polls, the polling officials can cast their vote, if he/she is a voter of the concerned ULB. The Commission will issue a certificate for this purpose, he said.

Informing about the setting up of the strong room to store the EVMs, Mr.Padhi said, the SEC has issued a detailed SOP for this purpose. There will be three strong rooms in each ULB; one is for strong EVMs meant for councillor/corporator, another for chairperson/ mayor and the third one for the reserve EVMs.

For safety of the EVMs, the strong rooms will have a double lock system with keys of each lock with two separate officers. Armed police will be deployed for 24X7 and CCTV cameras with digital video recorder (DVR) will be installed from date of commissioning till completion of counting, he added.

In the SOP, the Collectors have been asked to seal all other doors/ windows of the strong room using brick-masonry or concrete and install a main switch outside the strong room and disconnect electricity after sealing off the room. The room should be free from dampness, pests, rodents etc.

It should be free from flood/water logging risk/cracks/leakage/broken window etc.  Provide an exhaust fan on the front side at the highest feasible point for air circulation and install a strong iron grill at the vent/ passage, if required, the Commission told the District Magistrates.

“No other material whether election related or not (except the documents/ materials prescribed by the Commission to be kept with the polled EVMs) to be kept with the EVMs. Before storing the EVMs in the Strong Room, the District Election Officer will have to obtain a certificate from the authority concerned to ensure the quality and physical aspects of the Strong Rooms and the certificate is to be kept on record for future reference,” said the SOP.

Log book will be maintained for each entry and exit and duty roster and videography will be conducted at the time of the opening and closing of the Strong Room. Fire- extinguishers will also be installed both inside and outside the Strong Room.

The District Collectors have been instructed to inform all the candidates in writing, at least 24 hours in advance, about the date and time of opening and closure of EVM Strong Room. Candidates or their authorized agents will be allowed to remain present during opening and closing of the EVM strong room.

The polled defective EVMs (the EVMs which got defunct after recording of some votes/ polling and replaced with new EVMs for recording of further polling) are to be kept together with replaced polled EVMs of a particular polling station in the relevant strong room, for taking up counting of votes recorded in both the EVMs at the time of counting.

Reserve EVMs which were not used in the poll, and were returned back by the Sector Officers after poll, will be kept in the “Reserve EVM” strong room. These EVMs will not be kept along with polled EVMs, it said.

The Commission also asked the DMs to intimate all contesting candidates 24 hours in advance to remain present or depute their agents for watching the security arrangements of the strong room and allow them to stay outside the inner perimeter on the day of counting.

After completion of counting of votes, CUs will be sealed and shifted to Strong Rooms of Treasury/ Sub-Treasury/ safe custody. The CUs to be kept safely in strong rooms as above during the Election Petition period, i.e. 45 days from the date of counting of votes and declaration of results. The Ballot Units (Bus) will be kept in another room(s) in safe custody.

The election for 47 municipalities, 59 Notified Area Councils (NACs) and three municipal corporations of Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Berhampur, will be held on March 24 and results will be declared on March 26. Over 41 lakh voters are eligible to cast their votes in the urban poll.