ECI’s focus on three ‘M’ to ensure free and fair polls

New Delhi: Chief Election Commissioner of India (CEC) Rajiv Kumar, Election Commissioners Sukhbir Singh Sandhu, Gyanesh Kumar and others during a press conference on General Elections 2024, in New Delhi on Saturday, March 16, 2024. (Photo: IANS/Qamar Sibtain)

New Delhi: Chief Election Commissioner of India (CEC) Rajiv Kumar, Election Commissioners Sukhbir Singh Sandhu, Gyanesh Kumar and others during a press conference on General Elections 2024, in New Delhi on Saturday, March 16, 2024. (Photo: IANS/Qamar Sibtain)

New Delhi, March 16 (IANS) Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar, while announcing the dates for 18th Lok Sabha elections, said that there is an elaborate security arrangement, which includes not just the security of polling personnel, voting stations and materials, but also the overall safety of the election process.

For peaceful elections, this time the Election Commission of India (ECI) has ensured that the security agencies deal effectively with three ‘M’ -- Muscle, Money, and Misinformation.

Elaborating on the ‘Muscle’, the CEC said that Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) are deployed to supplement the local police force in ensuring a peaceful and conducive atmosphere for the smooth conduct of elections in a free, fair and credible manner.

Based on the assessment of the ground situation, CAPFs and State Armed Police (SAP) drawn from other States will be deployed during the election.

“The CAPFs shall be deployed well in advance for area domination, route marches in vulnerable pockets, point patrolling and other confidence-building measures to reassure and build faith in the minds of the voters, especially those belonging to the weaker sections, minorities etc,” said Kumar.

The CAPFs/SAP shall also be deployed in Expenditure Sensitive Constituencies and other vulnerable areas and critical polling stations as per the assessment of ground realities by the CEOs of all States/UTs in consultation with various stakeholders.

“Besides, these forces will secure the strong rooms where EVMs and VVPATs are stored and for securing the counting centres and for other purposes, as required,” said Kumar.

To ensure optimum and effective utilisation of State Police Officials and CAPFs, the ECI has also directed to constitute a committee of CEO, State Police Nodal Officer (SPNO) and State CAPF Coordinator to jointly decide the State Deployment Plan and to ensure the randomisation of state police.

To deal with illicit cash flow, Kumar said that comprehensive instructions for the purpose of effective monitoring of the election expenditure of the candidates have been issued, which include deployment of Expenditure Observers, Assistant Expenditure Observers, formation of Flying Squads (FSs), Static Surveillance Teams (SSTs), Video Surveillance Teams (VSTs), Video Viewing Teams (VVTs), Accounting Teams (ATs), Media Certification & Monitoring Committee (MCMC), District Expenditure Monitoring Committee (DEMC), involvement of enforcement agencies viz. State Police, State Excise Department, Income Tax, FIUIND, CBIC, DRI, CGST, SGST, State Commercial Department, ED, NCB, CISF, RPF, BSF, SSB, ITBP, Assam, Rifles, ICG, Department of Post, BCAS, AAI, RBI, SLBC and State Forest Department.

“State Excise Department has been asked to monitor production, distribution, sale and storage of liquor and inducements in the form of free goods during the election process. The functioning and operations of the FSs/ SSTs shall be closely monitored using GPRS Tracking,” said the CEC.

The Income Tax department has been also asked to activate Air Intelligence Units (AIUs) in the airports of the States and also to gather intelligence and take necessary action to check the movement of large sums of money in all the States and Union Territories. The Bureau of Civil Aviation has also been directed to check chartered planes and helicopters at commercial airports.

“Control room and Complaint Monitoring Centre with 24 hours toll-free numbers shall be operative during the entire election process and in every district which will be headed by a senior police official,” said the CEC, while elaborating the plan to deal with misinformation.

“Social media will be monitored and strict action will be taken against rumour-mongering,” said the CEC.

Number Games: Total voters in India outnumber many continents' electorate put together, says CEC

 Announcing the Lok Sabha election schedule here on Saturday, the Election Commission of India (ECI) provided details on the country's voter list, polling booths, the number of EVMs to be used, and the security protocols to be implemented for the peaceful conduct of the polls, among other details.

Rajiv Kumar, the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), and newly-appointed Election Commissioners Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu disclosed the details at a press conference here.

Kumar said there are 96.8 crore registered voters in the country, including 49.7 crore male voters, and 47.1 crore female voters.

Talking about the magnitude of the Lok Sabha polls, the CEC said: “The total number of voters (in India) is more than the combined voters of many continents.”

Over 10.5 lakh polling stations have been set up with 1.5 crore polling officials and security staff on poll duty. More than 55 lakh EVMs and 4 lakh vehicles will be deployed for the elections, the CEC informed.

Kumar also said that having successfully conducted 17 general elections, over 400 state polls, and 16 Presidential and Vice-Presidential elections, the ECI has set a "golden standard" in electoral exercise.

There are 1.8 crore first-time voters and 19.74 crore voters in the age group of 20-29 years this time, he said.

Also, 88.4 lakh PwDs (persons with disabilities), 88 lakh voters above the age of 85, 48,000 transgenders, and 2.18 lakh centenarians will participate in the elections, the CEC added.