Setting at rest all doubts about whether the paramilitary units that have started arriving in Kolkata and the districts for the assembly polls in April-May would be taking orders from the state authorities or not, the Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday said that the panel would directly monitor the deployment of the forces.
While a few thousand paramilitary forces have already arrived in the city and districts by Tuesday and have carried out route marches, another 10,000 men will descend on the state by March 7. The EC’s announcement of the poll dates are expected any day now.
“The district magistrate, who doubles up as the district election officer, is looking after the deployment of forces in consultation with the SPs of the areas. The EC is monitoring their deployment and day-today movement. We are taking reports from the DMs and SPs at the end of the day. Video conferences are also being held every day,” said a senior officer of the poll panel.
This is quite different from what used to happen earlier. This time, the forces have been deployed much in advance and unlike in past elections when the central forces took orders from local authorities regarding deployment, the EC this time will have full control over them. There were allegations in the past that the state administration didn’t utilise the forces fully and had kept them idle on the day of polling.
Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi had hinted in January that this time it would be a bit different. The EC is planning to deploy central forces in every booth across the state and the paramilitary men would be under the control of the central observers appointed by the panel. There would be a three-tier security ring around the polling booths and if necessary, the jawans would escort villagers to the polling stations. Sources said around 400 paramilitary personnel have already hit Kolkata’s streets.
On Tuesday, Bengal’s chief electoral officer Sunil Gupta and other officials held a meeting with ADG (law and order) Anuj Sharma and ADG (armed police) Ranvir Kumar to discuss security. “We are almost done with our preparations in Bengal. Once the poll dates are announced, we will formally take over the process,” said an official.