Panchayat, municipal elections to witness separate queues for PwDs, elderly and Covid affected voters

[ Nellie N Manpoong ]

ITANAGAR, 19 Dec: Unlike previous elections in the state, the panchayat and municipal elections this year will have separates queues for persons with disabilities (PwD), the elderly, and those infected with Covid-19 during poll day on 22 December.

“There is no separate provision for casting votes for the vulnerable section. However, the state election commissioner, in exercise of his plenary powers, has introduced separate queues for the said three categories of voters, in addition to the existing queues for male and female voters,” informed State Election Commission (SEC) nodal officer Habung Lampung.

The first two categories will be given priority by the presiding officers and shall be allowed to vote at the earliest, so that they face minimum discomfort.

At the same time, Covid-19 affected people have been directed to come to cast their votes at the last hour (from 3 pm) on poll day while observing all safety protocols.

The polls will take place from 7 am to 4 pm on 22 December.

The presiding officers also have to ensure that no senior citizen or person with comorbidity is placed in the same queue with a Covid-affected person.

Lampung informed that SEC officials, with the help of the health department, have taken special care to ensure that Covid standard operating procedures (SOP) are maintained during the election process.

“The state election commissioner has also repeatedly emphasized on strict maintenance of Covid SOPS,” he said.

Advising voters to wear masks on polling day, Lampung said that the presiding officers of the polling stations will be the final authority on whether a voter without a facemask will be allowed to enter or not.

State Epidemiologist Dr L Jampa, who has been monitoring the Covid scenario in the state from the very beginning, informed this daily that the health department and the SEC have made elaborate arrangements for polling day with regard to Covid SOPs.

“We have given instructions to make sanitizers and thermal scanners available at the polling stations, besides maintaining two-metre distance, mandatory wearing of masks and maintaining hygiene at all polling stations,” he said, adding that there will be separate entry and exit ways for voters.

“Covid awareness posters will also be displayed for all to see at the polling stations, besides reserve facemasks,” he informed.

On whether the polls could lead to a possible surge in the number of Covid positive cases, he said, “We have sensitized everybody. The SEC has issued specific instructions to the election staffers as well as the political parties and the candidates. Time will tell how it turns out.”

District medical officers will continue to monitor the situation in their respective districts, while Dr Jampa himself will monitor and advise the SEC at the state level as the nodal officer.

The returning officers have been advised to keep a spare room ready as an alternative polling station in case a polling official falls sick while on polling duty.

Anybody violating the Covid-19 measures shall be liable to be prosecuted as per the provisions of Section 51 to 60 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

As per the state notification, a fine of Rs 500 shall be imposed for not wearing a mask and a fine of Rs 200 shall be imposed for spitting in public places.