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SIKKIM

Votes will remain 200% secret, assures Sikkim CEO ahead of polls

A total of 161 candidates, including 11 for the Parliamentary seat, are in fray for the LS and Assembly elections in the state to be held on April 11

Dichen Ongmu

Gangtok: With an end to the electrifying poll campaigns, the state is now on the final countdown to the assembly elections and Lok Sabha polls. Talking about the preparedness before D-Day, state chief election officer (CEO) R Telang assured the people that their votes will remain 200% secret as the Election Commission is extremely sensitive on the issue and does not compromise on it.

At a press conference held on Tuesday afternoon at the conference hall of the District Administrative Centre in Gangtok, Telang said, “Secrecy of vote is paramount for preserving democracy. Nobody’s vote is known to anybody.”

The CEO appealed the voters to exercise their franchise in a free and conscious manner without any fear.

Telang also thanked all the officials concerned on and off the field for keeping the election campaign free, fair and peaceful. “I am hopeful that all our teams will work with full sincerity and continue the momentum that we have achieved till the poll day,” he said.

On the facilities provided for persons with disability (PWD) voters, Telang said that for 20,142 PWD voters, special arrangements have been made like: wheel chairs at polling stations, ramps wherever possible and free transport facilities to help them commute. Students below 18 years are appointed as volunteers to assist them, he added.

Further, he informed that the total number of voters as on Tuesday are 4,32,306 with 2,12,001 female voters. Sumitra Rai, age 105 from Poklok-Kamrang Assembly Constituency is the oldest voter in the state. The state has a total of 567 Polling stations of which 120 stations have been identified as critical. Adequate CAPF forces and micro-observers have been deputed at these critical polling stations which will have webcasting arrangements as well.

The polling station with the lowest voter count is Pakjer Primary School under Poklok Kamrang with 175 voters and the polling station with the highest voter count is Arithang Jr High School Room No 1 under Arithang AC with 1405 Voters. Kupup Primary School under Gnathang-Machong AC, situated at an altitude of 13,400 feet is the highest altitude polling station in the state with 288 voters.

The CEO enlightened that there are 39 all women polling stations in the state which will be manned by all women polling parties and police forces. Along with this, model polling stations have been set up all over the state.

About 3,600 polling personnel, including reserve polling persons, have been deployed. The state has been assigned seven general observers, one police observer, eight expenditure observers and two accessibility observers for the general elections.

The total number of candidates contesting stands at 161, including 11 candidates for the Parliamentary constituency. Eleven counting halls in four locations across the state will ensure smooth and timely completion of the counting process. Up to 1,185 ballot units, 1,185 VVPATs and 1,185 control units will be put to use during the polling day.

The CEO further highlighted that more than 42,000 mock votes have been cast during SVEEP awareness campaigns throughout the state covering 10% of the total voters of the state. He informed that allocation of all constituency voting machines, polling stations, polling parties and police teams have been randomised according to ECI guidelines so as to rule out any fallacies. He informed that one voter guide is also being handed over to each family and voter slips have also been distributed to individual voters.

The inspector general of police, law & order, Gyanendra Kumar Verma, informed that the total police strength deployed for the elections across the state is 4,000 including the para-military forces. He mentioned that the forces are being utilised to the optimum, right from guarding of the Strong Rooms, manning critical polling stations and all women polling stations, conducting area domination drives, among others. All firearms have been deposited with the police forces except for those that are commissioned to be used by the law and order forces.

Verma said that 49 sector police officers have been deputed along with 49 sub-sector police officers and unaccounted cash and liquor amounting to Rs 18 lakh has been seized so far. He stated that prompt action has been taken and perpetrators have been booked. A total of 26 cases have been registered so far related to polling violence. Verma concluded that all security arrangements all over the state are in its prime thereby ensuring a safe environment for the voters of the state.