900 ‘flying squads’ to monitor poll expenditure
Nearly 900 'flying squads', each equipped with a GPS-fitted vehicle, is being deployed in West Bengal by the Election Commission to monitor poll-related expenses of candidates.
"For each of the 294 Assembly constituencies, we will have three 'flying squads' headed by an executive magistrate and police officials to keep vigil on attempts to influence voters using money," a top EC official said.
Each of the flying squads has a GPS-fitted car so that their movements can be tracked by EC, he said. "The squads have been asked to take photos and videos if they notice any violation and send it to us as soon as possible. This saves time and we get all records and evidence quickly," the official said.
In each of the districts, an election expenditure monitoring cell has been established with a 24/7 call centre where the flying squads submit reports. No Assembly constituency in West Bengal has been found to be 'expenditure-sensitive' by the poll watchdog. But the EC is doing a vulnerability mapping exercise to find areas where chances of violations are high. "We then give special focus to those areas. The 'flying squad' cannot avoid those areas as their movements are tracked by us," officials said. For greater transparency, candidates have been asked to open a separate bank account for their poll expenses so that it can be easily monitored. The limit of poll-related expenditure per candidate is Rs 28 lakh. Meanwhile, 320 voters of a leprosy colony in West Bengal’s Bankura district will have access to upgraded facilities like battery-operated cars in the upcoming Assembly polls, courtesy a model polling station exclusively meant for the inmates.