Chief election commissioner of India, Sushil Chandra, reiterated that the Election Commission is committed to conduct the forthcoming elections in Manipur in a free, fair, accessible, inclusive and inducement free manner.
The chief election commissioner was briefing the media in a press conference in Imphal on February 8.
Sushil Chandra said that the commission has zero tolerance towards abuse by money power and misuse of government machinery and would also not tolerate any mistakes from officers with malafide intentions and who behave in a biased manner.
He further stated that the commission had harnessed technology to facilitate empowerment of voters to report violations of model code of conduct and abuse of money power by activating the cVIGIL app. The cVIGIL is a simple, Android-based-mobile app and a powerful tool to promptly report unlawful campaigning activities and violation of the model code within minutes of having witnessed them and without having to rush to the office of the returning officer, the CEC said.
Users can also report complaints anonymously and action will be taken within 100 minutes, he added.
Appreciating the state for promoting gender participation despite obvious logistics challenges, the CEC informed that at least 487 all-women managed polling stations (16.4% of the total polling stations) would be set up in the state which will have all women polling staff, also including women security personnel in many of these stations. The initiative had been taken up to provide a comfortable experience to women voters.
He also informed that five assembly constituencies, namely 13-Singjamei, 31-Thoubal, 14-Yaiskul, 15- Wangkhei, 58-Churachandpur, will have all polling stations, managed exclusively by women. Apart from these, 115 model polling stations will be set up in the state.
The commission has also directed the chief electoral officer and district election officers of all electoral districts to ensure availability of assured minimum facilities (AMF) like water, electricity, toilets, ramp at all polling stations, he added.
Stressing on measures taken to make the elections truly accessible, Sushil Chandra informed that appropriate facilitation including pick up/drop, wheelchairs, volunteers support and postal ballot facility are being provided to all the mapped PwD and 80+ senior citizen voters in the state.
Webcasting will be arranged in 2400 out of 2968 polling stations (over 80%) being set up in the state and the remaining will be covered with offline videography to ensure smooth conduct of election, he added.
The chief election commissioner then said that a new initiative for facilitating absentee voters by way of postal ballot facility, for senior citizens, COVID-19 suspects or affected persons and persons related to notified essential services, is being provided. He also added that the postal ballot facility is an optional facility and ensures total secrecy of voting and representatives of candidates will be present and the total procedure to be videographed.
Regarding service voters, he stated that an electronically transmitted postal ballot system had been instituted and 21,935 service voters have been mapped in the state for the same.
The CEC was delighted on learning that the state has 749 centenarian voters with Senapati district having the maximum number of centenarian voters i.e 110 and added that he had directed to CEO/DEOs to felicitate such centenarian voters who can act as role models for the youngsters.
Stating on the objectives taken up to further improve the voter turnout in the state, Sushil Chandra informed that 300 low voter turnout polling booths have been identified under Mission 300 programme by CEO Manipur and focussed booth level action plan had been prepared by engaging BLO, local clubs, women clubs and elderly voters. The commission had also directed the CEO and DEOs to prioritize low voter turn-out pockets for targeted SVEEP interventions to ensure inclusive and participatory elections.
Speaking on the importance of publishing criminal antecedents, the CEC stressed that candidates having criminal antecedent (whether independent or sponsored by a political party) and political parties sponsoring such candidates are required to publish detailed information including their criminal antecedents.
Mentioning that conducting inducement free and ethical elections is of prime importance for the Election Commission, the CEC stated that the district officers and enforcement agency officials have been instructed to monitor expenditure sensitive constituencies and ensure comprehensive, coordinated actions. He informed that seizures worth Rs 97.6 crore have been made in the state including Rs 1.48 crore of cash, liquor worth Rs 40 lakh, narcotics worth Rs 81.5 crore and freebies and gold worth Rs 14.2 crore since the announcement of elections.