Those excluded from Assam NRC can vote if their names are on electoral rolls: EC
Chief election commissioner Sunil Arora on Wednesday cited a Union home ministry notification and said those excluded from Assam’s updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) can vote in the assembly polls due in the state in April-May this year if their names are on the electoral list.
He said the press note dated August 20, 2019, says the exclusion of a person’s name from NRC does not amount to her declaration as a foreigner. “By implication, such persons remain on the voters’ list and shall be eligible to vote until a decision is taken by concerned tribunals [about their citizenship],” said Arora, who was on a three-day visit with an Election Commission (EC) team to take stock of poll preparedness in Assam.
Around 1.9 million people were left out of the updated NRC published on August 31, 2019, as part of a process to identify and deport alleged undocumented immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh. Only those who could prove they came to the state by March 24, 1971, the day before Bangladesh was liberated from Pakistan, were included in the NRC. The NRC was first created in 1951.
Arora said elections in Assam will be held keeping in mind the Bohag Bihu festival in mid-April. He added the poll process would be over before the Central Board of Secondary Education exams begin in May.
Arora said the EC will give Covid-19 kits to polling teams. He added polling time will be increased by one hour to decongest polling spaces and allow more free movement of voters. “Nomination forms and affidavits can be filled by candidates online and print out can be submitted to returning officers. Security money can also be paid online. The number of persons accompanying candidates at the time of filing of nominations has been restricted to two,” said Arora as he explained measures being taken for the polling in view of the pandemic.
The EC has decreased the average number of voters in each polling station from 1,500 to 1,000. This would lead to an increase of around 5,500 polling stations in Assam. Around 33,000 polling stations are expected to be set up in the state.
Arora said door-to-door campaigning will be restricted to five people including the candidate. “Roadshows are allowed subject to [restrictions]... Deputy commissioners of districts will ensure the maintenance of social distancing norms at election rallies.”
Arora said they are in discussions with the government to ensure the possibility of Covid-19 vaccination of poll officials before the elections. He added a voluntary code of ethics agreed upon by social media platforms would apply to the Assam election as well to ensure they are not used for inciting violence even as the law and order situation in the state is presently under control.