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EC pulls up West Bengal officials over lack of COVID compliance

Expresses displeasure over flouting of COVID-19 norms during electioneering

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee arrives in a helicopter for an election campaign rally in support of party candidates for the Assembly Polls at Tapan in South Dinajpur district | PTI Represenational image | PTI

In the midst of a debate over elections in West Bengal during a raging pandemic, the Election Commission on Saturday held a meeting with senior officers of the state in which it noted with concern that during public campaigns for electioneering, the enforcement of the COVID-19 norms as dictated by the Disaster Management Act has been less than adequate.

The EC, led by Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra and Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar, held a meeting with senior officials of the state, including chief secretary, additional chief secretary (home), secretary (disaster management), health secretary, DGP, and Commissioner of Police, Kolkata. West Bengal CEO and state police nodal officer were also present.

The commission expressed its displeasure with the flouting of COVID-19 norms during electioneering. It said enforcement under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, which is under force, has been less than adequate, according to a statement from the EC.

The poll body said the Executive Committee of State Disaster Management Authority, chaired by the Chief Secretary and tasked with enforcement of COVID-19 appropriate behaviour under the 2005 Act, needs to step up its assigned statutory duty.

The district machinery, tasked with election works, continues to remain responsible for enforcement of other laws, including the Disaster Management Act simultaneously, the EC said.

The EC directed that the SDMA and its functionaries must implement and monitor the implementation of COVID norms during the campaign and take appropriate action in case of any violation.

The chief secretary assured the entire machinery has been directed to take more stringent and prompt steps for sensitisation and enforcement of instructions under the act. The commission appreciated the arrangements made by the state machinery in the polling booths for COVID-appropriate behaviour and safe disposal of biomedical waste.

The commission was informed that the state has procured 2.46 crore face masks, 17.05 lakh face shields for polling personnel, 18.35 lakh hand sanitisers for polling personnel, 2.72 lakh hand sanitisers for voters, 1.31 lakh PPEs, and nine crore hand gloves, among others for ensuring a safe voting process.

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