Observers should be visible, accessible, neutral and ethical in their functioning: CEC Sushil Chandra
Delhi, Jan 15
The Election Commission of India on Friday organized a briefing meeting for Observers to be deployed for the forthcoming General Elections to the Legislative Assemblies of Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. The schedule for these assembly elections was announced on 8th January 2022.
Over 1400 officials attended the sessions, with 140 Officials attending it physically at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi and the rest joining virtually from States/UTs. Officers drawn from IAS, IPS, IRS and other accounts Services across the country are deployed as General, Police and Expenditure Observers.
Addressing the Observers, Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra said that Observers during elections are the eyes and ears of the Election Commission of India and should be totally in command with eagle-eye on issues to ensure the conduct of free, fair, transparent and safe elections. Shri Chandra advised Observers to be updated with all electoral processes, including Postal ballot facility for Absentee Voters in the category of Sr citizens, PwD electors and Covid-19 suspects or affected persons; vigilant for any lapses in Model Code of Conduct and other ECI guidelines; strict enforcement of extant COVID guidelines as also counting procedures.
While stressing on the Commission’s zero-tolerance towards abuse of money power or any kind of inducements, CEC urged Expenditure Observers to sharpen their skills and be innovative in countering newer methods of inducement. He asked Observers to ensure proper publicity of cVIGIL App to empower citizens to report cases of violation to ensure prompt action by Flying Squads, Surveillance teams. CEC during his address directed that all the three Observers (General, Police & Expenditure) should work in coordination with Enforcement Agencies. He asked the Observers to visit more and more Polling Booths to check for Assured Minimum Facilities to facilitate senior citizens, Persons with Disabilities and women voters.
Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar during his address highlighted that the Observer system has now got well established and it’s an elaborate and robust interface of the Election Commission for guidance for field functionaries. He said Observers play a cardinal role in conduct of elections and thus need to be accessible and visible to the voters, candidates and political parties to personally attend to their suggestions & grievance redressal.
Kumar cautioned that even stray instances of human errors by polling personnel, non-compliance of covid protocols even at polling material distribution centers can create a deviant narrative and derail the smooth conduct of elections. He asked Observers to be vigilant and report any critical incident immediately to the Commission. He cautioned the Observers that they are always under strict and microscopic scrutiny by various stakeholders and thus should be careful and discreet about their own personal behavior and conduct during the election process. He said observers are representatives of the Commission and must be acutely aware and cognizant of this sacred and onerous duty entrusted upon them.
Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey while acknowledging that conducting elections amidst COVID-19 is challenging, he exhorted the designated Observers to ensure that the level playing field is maintained for all Political Parties and candidates. He also directed to ensure that hassle free and voter friendly measures are provided at Polling stations for voters. He said ECI has stood the test of time in ensuring free, fair, transparent, inclusive and safe elections and experienced officers posted as Observers should act as guides and mentors to field officials.
He stressed that observers should play a critical role in deployment of Central Para Military forces in ensuring peaceful and intimidation-free elections. During his address, he highlighted various initiatives taken by the Commission for enhanced voter turnout including identification of low voter turn-out booths in the previous assembly elections. While highlighting the enhanced role of virtual campaigning in the current times, he mentioned the need to curtail misinformation and hate campaigns on social media platforms.
During the half-day long sessions, Secretary General ECI Shri Umesh Sinha briefed the observers on Election Planning, Security Management & SVEEP aspects. During his address, he also highlighted the crucial role of Observers as Ombudsman who must report issues to ECI on a real time basis as also ensure their own neutral, ethical and cordial conduct when on the ground.
Sinha, who is also incharge of elections in State of Goa at ECI, briefed the officers on state specific issues. Senior Deputy Election Commissioner, Chandra Bhushan Kumar briefed the observers on legal and MCC related issues. He also highlighted state specific details for Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. Deputy Election Commissioner Nitesh Vyas briefed the observers about EVM-VVPAT management highlighting critical checkpoints for the Observers and on Electoral Roll issues. He also briefed the observers on state specific issues for Punjab and Manipur. Deputy Election Commissioner T. Sreekanth briefed the officials on various IT applications and initiatives of the Commission.
Sheyphali Sharan, Director General (Media) briefed the Officers on media related aspects including Media Certification and Monitoring Committees, Paid News as also Social Media. Briefing sessions were also held on Training of Personnel and expenditure monitoring.