Election dept’s precautionary measures blatantly violated

Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, April 6: Along with the large-scale voting in the third and last phase of the Assembly elections, the city also witnessed blatant violation of COVID-19 norms in most of the polling stations on Tuesday.

In view of the ongoing pandemic, this time the district election department had arranged all kinds of precautionary measures including masks, sanitizers, hand gloves, thermal scanners, etc., in each polling station along with posters detailing various guidelines to be followed in the polling centre by a voter.

Unfortunately, despite all those precautionary measures, a large section of voters were seen violating COVID-19 norms by maintaining no physical distance while standing in queues to exercise their franchise. Some of them did not even wear face masks.

Such a blatant violation of COVID-19 norms becomes a serious cause of concern as it could lead to another wave of the pandemic in the State, particularly in the city. Notably, since the past few days, Assam has been witnessing a spike in the number of corona positive cases as a part of the second wave of the pandemic.

“Since the polling began, we repeatedly requested every voter to strictly follow all COVID-19 norms. Unfortunately, most of them do not bother about the pandemic and are reluctant to follow even the basic norms. Our senior officials too visited the polling stations and requested the voters to follow the norms in the greater interest of public health. But all the efforts went in vain,” an Assam Police personnel deployed in a polling station located at Garigaon area of the city told The Assam Tribune.

Wishing anonymity, he further said, “It is not possible to force a person to maintain social distance in a polling station as the entire election process is very sensitive. If we forcefully try to execute the COVID-19 norms, then there are chances that the law-and-order situation may deteriorate. So it is better to maintain a silence.”

Echoing the same concern, poll officials deployed at Uzanbazar Jahaj Ghat Lower Primary School, alleged that no one was ready to obey the norms.

“We repeatedly appealed to the voters to maintain social distancing while in queue. Shockingly, no one cared to listen to us although everyone was aware that a second wave of the pandemic has started in the country,” the official said.

Alakesh Deka, who cast his vote at the Bonda Anchalik High School here, opined that in view of the ongoing pandemic, this time there was a need to increase the number of polling booths to ensure proper implementation of COVID-19 norms.

“The polling officials drew a number of circles inside the campus of the polling station to ensure social distancing between two voters in a queue. On the other hand, since 7 am, a large number of people were seen waiting in queues both outside and inside the polling station campus. As a result, seen maintenance of any social distancing was not seen. It also proved the lack of proper arrangements from the side of district administration to ensure the same,” Deka said.

The violation of COVID-19 norms was more prominent in the polling stations which were located near slum areas and semi-urban areas of the city where people were in queues since the morning hours.