Q. Tell us about the preparation for the 6th LAHDC election?
Preparation for the 6th LAHDC, Leh election, including the provision of infrastructure, distribution of election materials, assigning election duties, safety, and security at polling stations, etc. are all in full swing. Training for all the polling parties, Returning Officers (ROs), Assistant Returning Officers (AROs) are all being put in place. For the first time, the Hill Council election will be conducted through EVM machines. There are 295 polling stations and around 88,000 registered voters.
All the guidelines/ SOP are issued by the Election Commission of India (ECI) followed by SOP/guidelines laid by the MHA is put in place as the election is being held amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Q. What measures and precautions have been taken for voting during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Detailed guidelines for conducting elections during the COVID-19 pandemic have been issued. Social distancing, face mask, access to sanitization measure for voters, reducing the number of people in the nomination process, and polling officials are focussed upon. A person with a disability (PWD) and a person whose age is more than 65 years are given an option to take part in the election through the Postal ballot. Needed measures have been taken to avoid the crowd at the polling station on 22 October, polling day.
Conditions are laid down to carry out election campaigning/road shows by the political parties and election candidate such as restricting door to door campaigning to 3 persons, maximum 9 vehicles per candidate shall be allowed for road shows, only 3 vehicles shall move at a time with an interval of 15 minutes and vehicles can carry only 50% passengers the total carrying capacity,
We are also ensuring larger public spaces for election-related activities, such as during the voting and counting day.
Q. Brief us about the Model Code of Conduct.
The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is enforced and is mandatory for all political parties as well as for the independent candidates to follow the MCC in letter and spirit till the election process is over.
Various mechanisms have been put in place such as obtaining prior permission for organising meetings and rallies by the political parties and the independent candidates, permission shall also be mandatory for using motor vehicles for all kinds of campaigning/electioneering purposes, no rallies/public meetings of a political nature shall be permitted in the district without prior permission, liquor, cash, food, and consumer goods shall not be distributed by any organization/Political Parties, Independent Candidates, etc. in any case, public premises and government structures like buildings, electric poles, road dividers, etc shall not be defaced by posters, flags, and banners, private structures shall be used only with the prior consent of the owners.
Officers/Officials on election duty like Magistrates and Police Officers/Personnel will be on surveillance and inspection will be carried out.
The registered/licensed liquor shops shall inform the Magistrate concerned, Excise, and Police authorities about their daily sales of liquor; and, bulk sales shall be specially brought immediately to the notice of the authorities. Stringent legal action will be taken by the Magistrates on duty and the State Tax officer, with the assistance of the police against all un-registered/unlicensed Bars/Liquor shops.
Q. What will be the different challenges for holding the election in times of pandemic? How the administration is coping up?
Holding elections in times of pandemic is a bit challenging as you have to ensure a smooth election process along with reducing the spread of the virus. Because of the COVID-19, we have to increase the number of all logistics to contain the spread of the virus. The expenses have also increased because we have to make the protective gear, sanitizers, gloves, thermal scanners, Face mask, etc accessible. Also, this time we had to increase the voter section for postal ballot.
Most important is that we have to make sure that the SOP’s and guidelines to be implemented strictly. Challenges are there but we will put the best effort to overcome all the hurdles.
Q. How you are ensuring a free and fair election process in the district?
All the mechanisms, such as the implication of Model Code of Conduct, guidelines/ SOP’s, flying squads, checking teams are in place to ensure a free and fair election. But along with all the system, voter awareness on the importance of election is very important to make the election free and fair. People should have a clear conscience and should vote ethically. I appeal everyone to cast their vote wisely and also bring in to notice of the administration if any malpractices are happening.
Q. What steps have been taken to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to the electoral process?
Making the electoral process accessible to the person with disabilities is very important because they also enjoy the Right to vote. To make it accessible, this time we have ensured the postal ballot system to the specially-abled people who have registered for it and those who are left out will cast their vote on polling stations where all the needed measures will be made available.
Message to the readers
“Cast your vote ethically. Also due to the prevailing COVID-19 situation, I appeal everyone to adhere to all the precautionary and safety measures.”