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Observers being observed, says CEC during review meeting for 19 districts

DARJEELING: While reviewing poll preparedness, Chief Election Commissioner of India Sunil Arora on Wednesday cautioned poll officials stating that even observers were being observed. During his visit to Siliguri, Arora directed all the officers to ensure smooth conduct of elections in a free, fair and transparent manner.

The full bench of the Election Commission of India was in Siliguri on Tuesday and Wednesday and conducted review of 19 districts for poll preparedness for the Assembly elections of the state. Officials of 8 districts of North Bengal attended the meeting in person along with officials of 11 districts through video-conferencing.

Arora cautioned that the Commission would not hesitate to take action swiftly or ruthlessly, against 'willfully erring officers.' In a press conference on Wednesday after holding rounds of meeting, Arora stated that since Bengal shares borders with both other states and countries, the Commission had reviewed the preparedness of various Government agencies including security and intelligence agencies like the BSF and SSB to ensure coordinated and effective functioning.

Meanwhile, ECI changed an Observer from Kashipur in Purulia district, Narendra Prasad Pandey, over charges of alleged misconduct with women. Special Expenditure Observer B Murali Kumar apprised ECI of seizures worth Rs 142 crore.

"Orders have been issued to ensure complete ban on bike rallies at all places 72 hours before date of poll and on the Poll day in all poll-going constituencies. No person from the Civic police or green police or student police shall be engaged in any election-related duty. Further, they shall not be allowed to perform any duty in uniform from 72 hours before date of poll till on the poll day," stated Arora.

When asked about the execution of arrest warrants regarding Bimal Gurung—who had been charged under the UAPA in multiple cases, he stated stated: "We have taken cognizance and this has been discussed. The details cannot be disclosed."

Regarding Anit Thapa continuing as the Chairman of the Board of Administrator, GTA, as a political appointee holding office during Model Code of Conduct, Arora directed Sudeep Jain Deputy Election Commissioner and In-charge of West Bengal to look into the matter and initiate necessary action. Chief Secretary, DGP, Divisional Commissioners, IG, DIG Police, DEOs and Superintendents of Police attended the meeting. ECI has appointed 209 General Observers, 55 Police Observers and 85 Expenditure Observers along with two Special Police Observers along with one Special General Observer and one Special Expenditure Observer in Bengal.

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