Gangtok: A three-tier security cordon has been provided to secure the strong room at Biraspati Parsai Government Senior Secondary School in Marchak, 10-km away from Gangtok.
The strong room set up in Marchak possesses electronic voting machines (EVMs) of 13 constituencies, including the Sangha seat along with the lone Parliamentary constituency in the state.
Reiterating their commitment to take adequate measures for protection of the strong room, East District Collector and the District Election Officer (DEO), Kapil Meena, said that a 3-tier security cordon has been provided to protect the strong room.
Altogether 50 CCTV cameras have been installed at the premises and a three-tier security arrangement is in place – inner-most managed by the Central Armed Police Force (CRPF), outer circle being manned by Indian Reserve Battalion (Sikkim) and the outermost stretching, which is 100-metre away from the premises, is being manned by the District Police, led by Superintendent of Police (East) Hem Raj Rai.
DEO Kapil Meena said, “We have CCTV cameras installed outside the door of every strong room. The locks and doors of every assembly constituency are sealed, yet visible through the CCTV cameras. Inside there are more than 25 cameras even inside the rooms, all of this in 100% compliance of the ECI guidelines.”
Various other additions
The control room is at the auditorium building of the school which houses 12 rooms and the windows have been sealed with bricks and concrete. While the entry to the building has also been sealed in such a way that stairs are still functional but access to the control room is completely sealed.
“We have also made a separate corridor for the movement EVMs on the counting day, so that also will be secured pathway without movement for other activities. The main entry of the auditorium will be used for movement of counting agents, election officers, staffs and candidates,” stated the DEO.
Entry of political representatives
The in-charges of different security teams have been briefed by the Chief Election Officer (CEO) as well as the District Election Officer as to how they must regulate the entry of political party personnel. “How they should check the IDs, who all will be allowed to go inside to see the strong room from the outside. Everything has been briefed about.”
Every political party can have their representatives to come and see the CCTV coverage or the security of the strong room, if there is any issue, they can point out to DEO.
“If there are issues with some of the cameras due to technical glitches, where the coverage is not there or not clear, they can come to us on a daily basis,” the DEO said.
A log book is being maintained for every person who goes inside the inner-most circle, with the DM and SP of respective district being responsible for the security of the strong room. Either the DM or the SP must check the security of the strong room every day or they have to depute their immediate junior.
“We have fire service at our disposal at the premises which has been deployed much before the polling began. They have been instructed to be here till the election process is over. A team of eight make the fire team and they are continuously living here itself. Besides the fire tuck, we also have fire extinguishers also on the inside,” stated the DEO.
In the auditorium, where the control room is situated, one counting hall will be for the assembly constituencies while the other will be for parliamentary constituency. The counting will begin simultaneously on May 23 from 8 am. The counting process will begin with postal ballots and after 30 minutes of the postal ballots, the counting agents will begin with the EVMs
“We will start simultaneously and we will then announce the round wise results. The counting must also go as per the sequence of the assembly constituencies and which hall will do the counting for which assembly constituency has already been approved by the ECI. This time there is a new addition, which will take time as well, there will be counting of five VVPATs in every assembly constituency, we will have to count the slips of five VVPATs from every parliamentary constituency as per their respective assembly constituency,” the DEO said.
There are 60-65 VVPATs in assembly constituencies and also for parliamentary constituency, so those slips are all to be counted manually and separately for both assembly and parliamentary constituency.
Additions to the school
The school is currently functioning and the same will be carried out until a week prior to the counting day. “Seven-10 days before the counting we are going to make the counting halls, so, meanwhile, the school will have to make some readjustments. The school also expressed their happiness in getting a pitched road as there was no road inside the school. There was a kutcha road till the school ground, while the road connecting the school was also in a bad condition. We were worried that our polling vehicles would skid on that road, or face an accident so we persuaded Roads and Bridges department to complete the carpeting for the entire stretch. That way school has been equipped with newer additions,” stated the DEO.
En route to the control room, Khamdong-Singtam, candidate for Sikkim Democratic Front, GM Gurung, said, “I am 101% satisfied with the security measure. It is fully protected and we are satisfied with this set up.”
Representatives from the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha, who are stationed in the control room premises at the school, claimed, “We are satisfied, but there are issues of connectivity of the cameras.”
The ADC has assured them that if CCTV glitches happen then they can take recording from the DC.
Earlier, the SKM party cadres used to stay as a team of 10. But following the DC’s order, only five are being allowed at night. During the day, the women cadres come by to relieve the night watchers.