Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sushil Chandra on Friday said that the ‘poll observers’ are the eyes and ears of the Election Commission of India and they should be visible, accessible, neutral and ethical in their functioning.
Addressing over 1400 poll observers via hybrid mode, he said that they should be totally in command with eagle eyes to ensure free, fair, transparent and safe elections.
While advising them to be updated on all the electoral processes, including the postal ballot facility for absentee voters in the category of senior citizens, persons with disabilities and Covid-19 suspects or affected persons, Chandra said that they should be vigilant about any lapses in the Model Code of Conduct and other ECI guidelines, strict enforcement of extant Covid guidelines as also counting procedures.
Stressing on the Commission’s zero-tolerance policy towards the use of money power or any kind of inducement, the CEC urged Expenditure Observers to sharpen their skills and be innovative in countering newer methods of inducements. He asked them to ensure proper publicity of the ‘VIGIL App’ to empower citizens to report cases of violation to ensure prompt action by flying squads and surveillance teams.
“All the three Observers (General, Police & Expenditure) should work in coordination with the enforcement agencies and they should visit more and more polling booths to check for Assured Minimum Facilities to facilitate senior citizens, persons with disabilities and women voters,” Chandra said.
Noting that the ‘observer system’ is now well established and it is an elaborate and robust interface of the Election Commission for guidance for field functionaries, Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar said that the Observers play a crucial role in the conduct of elections and thus need to be accessible and visible to the voters, candidates and political parties to personally attend to their suggestions and grievance redressal.
“Even stray instances of human errors by polling personnel, non-compliance of Covid protocols even at polling material distribution centres can create a deviant narrative and derail the smooth conduct of elections, therefore, they should be vigilant and report any critical incident immediately to the Commission,” Kumar said. He added that they are always under strict and microscopic scrutiny by various stakeholders and thus should be careful and discreet about their own personal behaviour and conduct during the election process.
The other Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey while acknowledging that conducting elections amidst Covid-19 is challenging, exhorted the Observers to ensure that a level playing field is maintained for all political parties and candidates.
He directed them to ensure that hassle free and voter friendly measures are in place at polling stations for voters. The Observers should act as guides and mentors to field officials and should play a critical role in the deployment of central para-military forces in ensuring peaceful and intimidation-free elections, Pandey added.
These officials have been drawn from the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Police Service and Indian Revenue Service and other accounts Services across the country and deployed as General, Police and Expenditure Observers for the impending elections in Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.