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Secret ops await poll staff

india Updated: May 12, 2011 15:53 IST
Joydeep Thakur

The Navy SEAL team which eliminated Osama bin Laden did not have any clue to their target until the last moment. It was all hush-hush. Secrecy was the key weapon in the operation.

The mission, which has earned accolades the world over, seems to have impressed the Election Commission, too. Apparently, taking a leaf out of the mission, the poll watchdog has decided to focus on security and secrecy for a hassle-free counting operation.

Such will be the security arrangements at the counting centres on Friday that officials who will be counting the ballots will be kept in the dark about the table number and the constituency assigned to them until the last moment.

Almost 14,500 personnel will be deployed in 312 counting halls across 87 centres.

While counting begins at 8am, the observers and returning officers will have to report by 5am. The counting personnel have been asked to report at the centres by 6am.

"At about 5o'clock in the morning, a list will be prepared and the counting personnel will get to know the details of the table and constituency assigned to them," an Election Commission official said. Once inside, they will not be allowed to go out until the counting process ends. No mobile phones allowed.

Only the returning officer and the observer would be allowed to carry their cellphones, as they would be constantly feeding data to the control room through text messages. The entire process would be videographed.

The data would be put up on big screens at media centres outside counting halls, EC office and Writers. This will help the media remain updated.

Each centre would be wrapped in a three-tier security with paramilitary forces manning the innermost circle. The state police and central forces will take care of the outer two. No vehicles would be allowed within 100metres of the centres. "Total 75 companies of central forces and a few thousand policemen would be deployed," chief electoral officer Sunil Gupta said. The results be will announced at 4pm.

"To maintain transparency and keeping in mind security concerns, we have decided to assign one counting hall for one constituency. This means that it would take more time than presumed earlier. Earlier, we had planned at least three halls per constituency which could have helped to declare results early," a senior official said. Only 18 constituencies have two halls per constituency.