Millennium Post

State police to be in QRTs after sixth phase debacle

Kolkata: Taking lessons from the sixth phase of the Lok Sabha polls in Bengal held on Sunday, the Election Commission has decided to include state police personnel in Quick Response Teams (QRTs).

There were only Central Force personnel in the QRTs during the sixth phase and the latter, with little knowledge of the location of the booths, took a lot of time to intervene in case of any report of trouble.

"There will be state police along with Central Forces in the seventh phase of the elections on May 19," state Police Observer Vivek Dubey told reporters after a meeting with senior officials in the office of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Bengal and the top brass of the state police and Kolkata Police. Sources in the Commission said that there will be at least one civil constable in each QRT in the seventh phase.

Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain, who reached the city on Sunday night, took stock of the poll-preparedness and security measures for the seventh phase of polls in Bengal, in which the nine constituencies of Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Joynagar, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Kolkata South and Kolkata North are going to polls.

It may be mentioned that in the fourth and fifth phase of elections, the QRTs with a blend of Central Forces and state police were found to reach troubled places very quickly and bring situations under control.

In the sixth phase there were around 547 QRTs and 108 additional QRTs which were led by ad-hoc commandants. They struggled to reach places from where sporadic violence was reported as they didn't have proper knowledge of the geographical locations of the booths.

A number of political parties that met Jain also briefed him about the problem. They alleged that clashes broke out outside various polling booths and the trouble could not be quelled in time.

Jain also spoke with the returning officers who have been deployed for the seventh phase of polls. "All the DEOs and ROs have ensured that there will be no security related issues in the last phase. There has been maximum deployment of forces in the state because the Commission has given special importance to this state. Forces are always deployed on the basis of availability and there can be a situation when all the booths might not be covered by Central forces. But the Commission wants maximum utility of the forces," Jain said.

Later in the day, he visited the model counting centre at Netaji Indoor Stadium. "There will be VVPAT counting this year and so the Commission has made some changes in the counting pattern. The Commission has decided that only after completion of the first round, the counting of second round will start," a senior election official said.

Jain also gave training to all the DEOs and ROs about the counting system and also answered their queries.

As per plans drawn up by the Commission till now, 673 companies of Central Forces will be deployed in the seventh phase, with Kolkata getting a share of 146 companies for its two constituencies across 1,576 polling premises – making a provision of nearly 10 personnel for each premise. Another 27 companies of Central Forces are slated to be deployed for the Bidhannagar commissionerate area.

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