R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, Feb 14: With the Assembly election approaching, police and security forces are gearing up to ensure violence-free polls, while the State government is planning to seek additional Central forces so that adequate security coverage can be given in all the polling stations and other vulnerable areas.
Talking to The Assam Tribune, Director General of Assam Police Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta said that vulnerability mapping of the State has been done and all records of past disturbance during the polls have been collected to take adequate precautionary measures. He said an all-out drive has been launched against illegal weapons and contraband items, including drugs.
The police chief said the drive is paying dividends as a large number of illegal weapons and ammunition have been recovered from different parts of the State, particularly from the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR). The drive against drugs is also yielding desired results, he added.
Mahanta said the Election Commission of India has already started issuing directives to the police for conduct of free and fair elections and all the directives are being strictly followed. He, however, did not divulge the quantum of additional forces to be sought by the State government and said it would depend on the poll schedule, which is yet to be announced.
If the Election Commission announces a single-phase election, the requirement will be more and it will be less if the elections are held in phases. The State administration has already requested the Election Commission to hold the polls in three phases.
As the elections will be held by maintaining COVID-19 protocol, the number of polling stations will have to be increased. This time, there will be 32,000 polling stations in the State.
The number of polling stations was 24,000 in the last Assembly elections and it was increased to 28,000 in the last Lok Sabha polls.
The Assam Police is planning to deploy armed personnel in all the polling stations, but it will depend on the availability of additional forces from the Centre.
Meanwhile, the Assam Police has started liaison with its counterparts in the northeastern states and the meetings are being held at different levels. The State DGP has spoken to his counterparts in the other states of the region. He has also written to them seeking cooperation to ensure that no militant or other antisocial element can sneak into Assam from the neighbouring states.
As the elections in Assam and West Bengal will be held at the same time, the police chiefs of both the states have discussed how the security measures in the inter-state border areas could be intensified. The Inspector General of Police, BTR already had a meeting with the IGP in-charge of North Bengal.