Bihar polls amid CovidKhadi gloves, bamboo sticks to use EVMs... poll panel hits some ideasUpdated: Jun 30, 2020 17:25 IST
Keeping in mind safety concerns of voters during the upcoming Assembly polls in Bihar amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the Election Commission (EC) is working on proposals to provide gloves and bamboo sticks, of the size of toothpicks, to voters in an attempt to ensure contact less voting as they press the button of their choice on electronic voting machines (EVMs).
Some other innovative proposals include use of disposable syringes to put indelible ink on the finger of voters, setting up glass shields at the table of polling officers so that voters, when asked to identify themselves by taking off masks, do not come in contact with the staff.
Bihar polls, scheduled to be held in October-November, would be the first stand-alone Assembly elections amid the Covid-19 pandemic and it is a challenge for the poll panel to ensure safety of voters and polling staff so that there is no spread of virus during heightened physical interfaces.
“Sanitising EVMs after every vote is not possible. Bamboo sticks are environment friendly too,” said a senior EC official, wishing not to be quoted.
Sources said the proposals have been sent by BIhar’s chief electoral officer to the Election Commission for final approval. “We have sent a few proposals for safety of voters at the booths. We are working on it. The concern is that voters do not come much in contact with any physical object or polling staff,” said CEO H R Srinivasa.
The state has an electorate of 7.18 crore. There are 1.06 lakh booths and an additional 33,797 auxiliary booths have been planned so that number of voters at one booth is capped at 700 to maintain social distancing.
EC officials said the process had started for requisition of these material and priority was being given to gloves from Bihar State Khadi Board so that it also generates rural employment. “The khadi board has been approached for gloves.Other material would be purchased locally and DMs will be authorised to do so,” said another EC official in know of the matter.
Meanwhile, political parties were split on the proposed new measures. The BJP and JD(U), constituents of the ruling NDA, said they would support any such measure by EC for ensuring safety of voters, while Opposition RJD said it would infringe on the rights of voters and defeat the purpose of elections.
“If EC takes any steps for safety of voters in view of Covid, we will support. But these should be widely publicised as our larger objective is to ensure 100 % voting,” said Nikhil Anand, state spokesperson of the BJP.
JD(U) state spokesperson Rajeev Ranjan said, “We are in favour of safety measures for voters.”
RJD’s state spokesperson Shakti Singh Yadav said, “In the name of Covid, there is an attempt being made to manipulate the polls. We will oppose any such move. We want the EC to conduct polls as in the past. Even in South Korea, elections were held amid Covid pandemic by using ballot papers,” he said.