Pandemic doubles cost of polls in Bihar
The upcoming Bihar Assembly polls, the first such exercise in the country to be held amid the Covid-19 shadow, will cost the state exchequer an estimated Rs 625 crore, more than double the amount spent to hold the last state polls in 2015, and one-fifth of the total amount is estimated to be spent in ensuring safety arrangements for voters and polling personnel at booths as per guidelines to be issued by the Election Commission soon, officials in the state election department have said.
Compared to the 2015 polls, when around Rs 270 crore was spent on the exercise, there will be an estimated increase of 131.48% in the expenses of holding elections this year, thanks to the raging pandemic.
The expenditure for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections was Rs 535 crore, as per state government records.
While the cost of holding Lok Sabha elections is borne by the central government, respective states foot the bill for holding Assembly elections.
According to officials familiar with the matter, the drastic rise in poll expenses this time is on account of safety measures like purchase of PPE kits for six lakh polling personnel, besides gloves and masks, and sanitizer for voters before they enter the booths.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) is also considering other proposals for safety of electors, including putting circles outside the booths where voters would be asked to stand before casting their vote to ensure social distancing.
The expected expenditure on transportation of polling personnel and central armed police force (CAPF) is another factor for cost escalation. “This time, requirement of buses, trucks, SUVs and other vehicles will be much higher than previous elections to ensure there is no crowding inside vehicles ferrying polling personnel,” said an official engaged in poll preparations.
“This time, counting centres will be much bigger so that polling agents and poll personnel can maintain proper social distance during the counting process,” he said.
The increase in number of booths by 45%, with creation of 33,797 auxillary booths apart from 72,727 booths to cap the number of voters to 1000 or below in each booth for maintaining safety norms, is another reason behind cost escalation, sources said.
Bihar has a total 243 assembly constituencies.
“There is an assessment that Rs 2 crore-plus per assembly constituency would be spent on election-related activities. Besides, an additional Rs 125 crore will be spent on purchasing safety gears and implementing various measures for social distancing. The figure can even go up,” said the official.
The assessment of high cost to be incurred in the coming polls is also reflected in the budget 2020-21. While the initial budgetary provision for the state’s election department in this year’s budget was Rs 627 crore, an additional allotment of Rs 250 crore was made in the recently approved supplementary budget by the state government, based on the election department’s revised cost estimates.
This means the state government has made a total budgetary provision of Rs 877 crore, of which Rs 122 crore has been provisioned for payment to central security forces to be engaged for poll duty.
Bihar’s chief electoral officer H R Srinivasa refused to comment on the projected cost of Rs 625 crore. “Sufficient budgetary provisions have been made for the election expenditure. We have adequate funds,” he said.
Principal secretary (finance) S Siddharth said the state election department had been allotted funds as per demand for conduct of polls. “ The state government has made additional allotment in supplementary budget for election purposes,” he said.
Headline: Covid costs dear
PPE kits for 6 lakh polling personnel, drastic increase in number of booths drive up poll expenses
Estimated cost of holding assembly polls this year: Rs 625 crore
Cost of holding 2015 assembly polls: Rs 270 crore
From the budget
Initial budgetary provision for state election department for this year: Rs 627 crore
Additional allotment in supplementary budget: Rs 250 crore
Total budgetary provision this year for election department: Rs 877 crore
Amount provisioned for payment to CAPF for poll duty: Rs 122 crore
Amount to be spent on purchasing safety gears and ensuring social distancing: Rs 125 crore
A suspected Khalistani terrorist, Parminder Singh, has been taken on remand by the crime investigation agency for interrogation in the recovery of two SUVs with fake registration certificates. Parminder is among four 'Khalistani' terrorists arrested by Haryana Police in Karnal on May 5 with explosives and arms. Investigators claimed that Parminder had allegedly bought two SUVs bearing fake registration numbers from Nitin of Ambala and Sandeep of Kharar in Punjab, who have already been arrested.
Yamunanagar police have booked former Haryana State Cooperative Development Federation (HARCOFED) chairperson Rameshwar Chauhan and Chauhan's son Varun Chauhan for allegedly duping former civil surgeon Dr Vijay Dahiya of about ₹50 lakh. Chauhan has, meanwhile, refuted the allegations and accused Dr Dahiya and his son Paritosh Dahiya of not adhering to the conditions in a petrol pump partnership deal.
Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar said on Sunday said various digital-driven initiatives started in the past over seven years have made the scope of corruption in the state negligible. Khattar said the BJP worked in the direction of its election manifesto to give transparent, clean administration and corruption-free governance. The chief minister said Haryana has set an example for other states in agriculture and industry as well as in sports and education.
Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) Rohtak MP Arvind Sharma on Sunday hit out at Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar and former co-operative minister Manish Grover. Apologising for his remarks on the Congress and its leader Deepender Hooda last year, the Rohtak MP said he had made the “biggest mistake of his life” by giving a statement in favour of Grover.
Two farmers were trapped in a 40ft deep tubewell pit after a portion of land collapsed when they went down to carry out some maintenance work at Hisar's Saharwa village on Sunday morning, police said. The farmers have been identified as Jaipal Hooda and Jagdish, who had gone down to fix the tubewell motor. At least three more persons were also present on the mouth of the well.