EC ensuring strict vigil over illegal arms entry in Bengal

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Kolkata, March 24 (IANS) Officials of various West Bengal districts, including Maoist-affected areas, have been instructed to ensure “strict vigil over ferrying of illegal arms and ammunition” and seizure of illegal weapons ahead of the six-phase assembly polls, an Election Commission official said here on Thursday.

The poll panel sought reports from seven districts, including those in Left Wing Extremism (LWE) areas, following a media report in March and subsequent complaints received from the Bharatiya Janata Party, said additional chief electoral officer Dibyendu Sarkar.

“District Election Officers (district magistrates) of seven districts — Purulia, Bankura, West Midnapore, Nadia, Malda, Murshidabad and Birbhum — have submitted the reports. They were asked to report on preventive action taken to ensure strict vigil on illegal entry of arms and on sezure of illegal weapons,” Sarkar said.

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Listing out the key actions taken so far, Sarkar said that in all the districts, a number of arms, ammunition and explosives have been seized.

In LWE-affected areas of Bankura district, since December last year, 31 security operations had been initiated, and 11 Maoists have surrendered since November.

In Purulia, which has a long border with Jharkhand, 14 ‘naka’ check points have been set up by the district police.

In Malda, the district authority has seized fake Indian currency notes of face value Rs.58.88 lakh, and arrested five people.

There was a massive operation against cultivation of poppy in the area and poppy cultivation in 11,500 bighas was destroyed in a massive operation.

“In all the districts, massive confidence building measures have been taken to address the issues in the vulnerable hamlets identified. The efforts taken by the districts are seen as proactive steps to gain confidence of the voters for a free, fair and participative election,” he said.

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As many as 166 candidates have passed scrutiny for 31 seats in West Midnapore, Bankura and Burdwan, Sarkar said.

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