Imphal: Preparations for the upcoming 17th Lok Sabha Elections are underway in the state, where up to 19,30,912 voters will exercise their franchise in 2,861 polling stations, which is an increase of 44 polling stations compared to last time.
Addressing media persons at his office in Lamphelpat, Manipur chief electoral officer (CEO) PK Singh said that more than 4,000 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are already placed in the strong room. Stating that the last batch of 1,000 Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs) will be brought from Banguluru soon, he said the existing machines have been checked by over 20 engineers of the Bharat Electronics Ltd. He assured that there is an adequate reserve of EVM.
PK Singh informed that a detailed video conference with the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora was held on Tuesday which he had attended along with the chief secretary Dr J Suresh Babu, DGP LM Khaute, security nodal officer ADGP Shri L Kailun and representatives of different security agencies. Informing that the CEC has given strict instruction that the election has to be a top priority and the poll related works to be executed in full swing. Instructions have also been given regarding the posting and transfer of government officials to be completed at the earliest by February 28, he added.
He said that for free and fair conduct of election, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has made clear instructions regarding the voting compartment. It will be made of 4mm thick foldable and weather-proof corrugated sheet which will be closed from three sides and cameras will be installed for real time or static recordings. He said that the name and number of the polling station, polling date, assembly constituency name and number, parliamentary constituency name will be clearly written on the voting compartment.
Stating that rigorous rounds of training are underway in the CEO office, he said that the district-level trainings will begin after 15 days. He said that a new instruction has been given that the training size should not be more than 50 people capacity and the trainings will be over by the end of February. Regarding the rumours on poll dates on social media, he said the election dates will be known after the formal announcement by the CEC who is expected to visit the state in a fortnight.
Expressing hope that the District Election Management Plans will be ready by January 31, he said that the identification of poll personnel is underway. Informing that all the tenders are completed, required materials are procured and some others are in the pipeline, he said that everything is expected to be completed by February 15.
Regarding the security arrangements, PK Singh said that 79 companies of paramilitary forces out of which 39 companies from the state and 40 companies from outside the state were used in the last election in 2014. He said that similar level of security arrangement is expected this time and the state police will also be engaged for the election.
Speaking about the awareness campaign of EVM and VVPAT, he said that CEC emphasised on the familiarization of machines very seriously. He said for the state, different polling teams were sent along with EVMs and VVPATS for the awareness campaign in the total 2,861 polling stations which was covered in two and half months. He said that the awareness campaign first kick started in the Thoubal district.
He said that 1,41,000 people used EVMs and got familiar with VVPATs during the awareness campaign. The highest number of participation was recorded in Patsoi where 16,234 voters tested the machine. He informed that the awareness campaign of EVM and VVPAT will continue in the market areas including the Ima Market where poll teams will visit in mobile vans and those who cast vote will be eligible for lucky draw, where winners will be immediately given prizes. The motive is to create a festive kind of atmosphere, he added.
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