[ Tasi Darang ]
India is a democratic, republican country, where periodic elections are one of the very basic features of the country. Many types of elections are conducted from time-to-time to elect representatives. These include the General cum Parliamentary election, Legislative Assembly elections, student-based elections, worker based elections, etc.
The Municipal and the Panchayati Raj elections, held recently on 22 December, are also conducted in our state to elect local bodies representatives at the grass root level.
I experienced my first voting right when I was in my second year of college. Later, as a government servant, I performed my election duty in the capacity of a presiding officer in the 2014 general cum state legislative assembly at Geching Village of Shi Yomi district.
As a senior security officer, I have continued to perform many election duties. During the 2019 general elections, my team was stuck in Pipsorang circle of Kra Daadi district for more than 24 days because of torrential rainfall. But we marched on foot for three days in the mountainous forest area and succeeded in bringing back the polled EVMs to the strong room.
Conducting election at the district level is a tedious and time-consuming process. From the day of filling nominations to result day – it takes up a lot of time and requires huge financial and human resources.
Elections in India in general and our state in particular have numerous challenges. The election process is often marked by election-related violence and includes many far-flung areas that are very difficult to cover on foot, especially with polling materials.
The state machinery is involved in a large scale to conduct the elections. Many officials require training for election as presiding officers, polling officers, sector magistrates, counting officials, etc. Besides, the officials require legal and technical knowledge of elections.
As the public is always suspicious, the government officials, especially the ROs and DEOs have infinite power to address any election-related problem.
As officers of law, the responsibility of the police department doubles every time the elections are announced. Amidst the atmosphere of mistrust and misunderstanding, security personnel have to maintain their integrity to win the trust of the public.
With the election environment marked with suspicion, mistrust, hatred and ill feeling towards the opposite camps, there are always scenarios where a small incident could snowball into a large law and order problem if not addressed on time. Every candidate wants to win the election and when a candidate has apprehensions of defeat in election, they try to create all sorts of hindrances in the polling process.
There are sometimes reports of booth capturing, snatching of ballot papers or polled EVMs. Use of muscle power or money power to manipulate or lure voters and obstructed them from casting their votes is also observed.
Ring leaders, rumour mongers and problem creators take advantage of the situation of the public to fulfil their motives and the police department receives many such complaints during election time.
To avert such law and order problems, the district administration should call every party prior to the election and discuss on maintaining a peaceful environment; local representatives like gaon burahs and gaon buris should be engaged to help maintain peace in their areas. There should be strict implementation of the election model code of conduct, with ban on carrying lethal weapons and alcohol. The flow of money should also be restricted by placing check points.
During election time, government officials, including security personnel involved in the election process undergo a lot of mental agony and pressure. They often encounter abusive language and ill treatment from the public and have to work in hostile situations during election duty.
The public and voters should understand that election is a game- a means and not an end. Election is simply a procedure to elect representative and it is not everything. Rather than remaining divided on party lines, one should always try to maintain feelings of fraternity as voters of the same locality have to live together after the elections are over.
Without the support of the people, the government cannot conduct peaceful elections, and for peaceful elections, every stakeholder of the society has to come together.
(The contributor is deputy superintendent of police (APPS), Ziro, Lower Subansiri district and a state government gold medal recipient.)