Glass shields, bamboo sticks in voting proposals before EC for Bihar polls
The polls, first since the coronavirus outbreak, are expected to be held in October-November and pose a big challenge for the authorities.Updated: Jun 30, 2020 19:15 IST
Toothpick-sized bamboo sticks for contactless voting, glass shields at the table of polling officers, use of disposable syringes to mark voters’ fingers are some of the proposals the Election Commission is working on for yet-to-be announced Bihar polls amid the coronavirus pandemic that continues to be a cause for concern.
The polls, first since the coronavirus outbreak, are expected to be held in October-November and pose a big challenge for the authorities.
EC officials, while rationalising the proposals, said the idea of putting indelible ink through disposable syringes is a safe option as the syringes could be disposed after one use where as glass shields before polling officers is required so that there is less chances of any infection from voter to polling staff and vice-versa during the identification exercise of the voter.
“Even gloves and bamboo made small sticks are being advocated for use of EVMs to press the buttons and sign the voter register as it will help in contactless voting. Sanitising the EVMs after every vote is not possible. We are not using any plastic made items because there is scope of infection in it. Bamboo made sticks are environment friendly and disposable also,” said a senior EC officer requesting anonymity.
Sources said the proposals have been sent by the chief electoral officer, Bihar, to the EC for final approval. “We have sent a few proposals for safety of voters at the booths. We are working on it. Our objective is that voters do not come in contact with any physical substance and there is a contactless method of voting during the polls,” said CEO, Bihar, HR Srinivasa.
However, the implementation is likely to pose its own logistical challenges. The state has a total of 7.18 crore voters with 1.06 lakh booths and the requirement of maintaining social distancing further adds another complexity to the whole exercise.
EC officials claimed the process has begun with priority being given to requisition gloves from Bihar State Khadi board so that it generates rural employment and easy availability of the protective gear.
“The state khadi board has been asked to work on it to provide khadi gloves.Other materials would be purchased locally for which DMs and district election officers will be authorised to do so,” said another EC officer aware of the developments.
Meanwhile, state political parties are divided in their opinion about the new steps.
While the BJP and JD(U), constituents of the ruling NDA, said they will support any such measure by the EC for ensuring safety of voters, opposition RJD said they are against such a move as it would infringe on the right of voters and defeat the purpose of elections.
“If the EC takes any steps for the safety of voters in view of Covid-19, we will support. But our thinking is that all steps of safety to be taken by the poll panel should be widely publicised as our larger objective is that there should be 100% voting and all voters should exercise their franchise freely,” said Nikhil Anand, state spokesperson of the BJP.
JD(U) state spokesperson Rajeev Ranjan said the party would support steps that the poll panel takes for safety of voters.
“We are in favour of safety measures for voters,” he said.
RJD’s senior leader and state spokesperson Shakti Singh Yadav, however, said the proposals are totally out of sync with the interest of voters.
“In the name of Covid, there is an attempt being made to manipulate the polls. We will oppose any such moves of the EC to provide gloves or sticks. We want the EC to conduct polls like in the past by using laid down procedures. Even in South Korea, elections were held during Covid-19 pandemic by using ballot papers,” he said.