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Punjab polls: Drugs, liquor EC’s top concerns


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Chandigarh, Oct 25 (IANS) The influence of drugs, liquor, money and muscle-power by some political parties and leaders top the concerns expressed before the Election Commission (EC) by various quarters in the run-up to the Punjab assembly elections.

"Some political parties have demanded that Special Task Force (STF) be set up for each constituency to check distribution of drugs, alcohol and money before and during elections," Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi told media here on Tuesday.

"These STFs should be independent of local police and civil administration and STF should remain on duty till polling process is over," said Zaidi, who completed a three-day visit to Chandigarh with two Election Commissioners, A.K. Joti and O.P. Rawat.

The CEC said the electronic voting machines (EVMs) being used for the assembly polls will have photographs of candidates against their names so that there is no confusion regarding candidates having similar names.

"The Commission has worked out a detailed strategy to maintain purity of elections and to deliver free, fair and transparent elections," the CEC said.

The EC team took stock of assessment of the advance planning and preparations made by the state election machinery for the forthcoming elections.

Elections to 117 assembly seats in Punjab are likely to be held in January-February next year.

Zaidi pointed out that the issue of ‘Halqa in-charges’ of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, who are considered an extra-constitutional authority in assembly constituencies, had been brought to the notice of the EC.

"On law and order in the state, several political parties informed the Commission about undue influence of Halqa in-charge over local civil and police functionaries. They also demanded that complete overhauling of the police and administration must be carried out to ensure free and fair elections," the CEC said.

"Proclaimed offenders must be booked and the current system of parole be reviewed so that anti-social elements are not able to influence electoral process. The political parties also demanded that the posting of local civic and police officials must be strictly reviewed and officers known to be biased and influenced by local political considerations must be removed," he said.

He said the international border in six border districts namely — Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Fazilka and Ferozepur and also inter-state borders will be appropriately subjected to surveillance.

Zaidi said Punjab had 1,92,14,509 (1.92 crore) registered voters till September 7 this year. This included 1,01,62,170 male voters, 90,52,066 female voters and 273 transgenders.

"In the recent campaign for Special Summary Revision as per eligibility on 1.1.2017 (January 1, 2017), 6,19,073 new forms for voter registration have been received. Of this, 225,000 are from the first time voters in 18-19 age group and 185,645 forms have been received for deletion of shifted and dead voters from the electoral rolls," Zaidi said.

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