GUWAHATI, March 20: Despite parts of the country showing signs of a second coronavirus wave and more and more states reporting new highs in terms of positive cases, political parties and their campaign managers in Assam continue to violate the COVID-19 guidelines issued by the Election by Commission in the run-up to the Assembly elections.
Questions have also been raised on election authorities whose laxity has given the candidates and their supporters the leeway. In August 2020, the Election Commission had issued guidelines for conduct of elections during COVID-19 time.
Based on these guidelines, a detailed comprehensive plan related to COVID-19 should be prepared at the state level, taking local conditions into account, the ECI had said.
In case of general elections, a three-layer plan – in the constituency, district and state levels – was recommended.
But election officials here said they were following a standard operating procedure (SOP), but it is not clear if any state-specific plan has been prepared.
According to the ECI guidelines, door-to-door campaign is restricted to five persons, excluding security personnel. In case of road shows, the convoy of vehicles should be broken after every five vehicles instead of 10 vehicles (excluding the security vehicles, if any). The interval between two sets of convoy of vehicles should be half an hour instead of a gap of 100 metres.
The district election officer (DEO) should, in advance, identify dedicated grounds for public gathering with clearly marked entry and exit points. According to the guidelines, in all such identified grounds, the DEO should, in advance, put markers to ensure social distancing norms by the attendees.
The DEO should also depute sector health regulators to oversee that COVID-19 guidelines are being followed during these meetings.
The guidelines also said that the political parties and candidates should ensure that all COVID-19 related requirements like face masks, sanitizers, thermal scanning, etc., are fulfilled during all poll activities.
An online mode of submission of nomination was also provided and the number of persons to accompany a candidate for submission of nomination was restricted to two.
Anybody violating instructions on COVID-19 measures is liable to face action as per provisions of Sections 51 to 60 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, besides legal action under Section 188 of the IPC, and other legal provisions as applicable.
However, no action has been taken by the authorities as yet despite the candidates and their supporters blatantly violating the COVID-19 guidelines.