March 30, 2023

EC unlikely to put off polls; govt says step up tests, jabs | India News – Times of India

Chief Election Commissioner of India, Sushil Chandra along with Election Commissioners Rajiv Kumar and Anup Chandra Pandey in Goa, earlier this week

NEW DELHI: The Election Commission, which was informed by health secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Monday that the five poll-bound states do not have many Omicron cases as of now, may not consider rescheduling of elections.
After being briefed in detail on the extent of Omicron cases in UP, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur as well as the status of vaccination in these states, the EC has now asked the health secretary to follow up on its instructions to step up the pace of vaccination and come back in a week’s time with a fresh report. Based on that report as well as inputs to be collected during its three-day UP visit starting Tuesday, the Election Commission will take a call on fine-tuning guidelines for Covid-safe campaigning and polling in the five states, said a source.
Meanwhile, the Centre has also asked the five poll-bound states to exponentially increase testing and ensure strict enforcement of Covid-appropriate behaviour, apart from ramping up vaccination coverage.
An Allahabad high court judge had recently requested the EC and the PMO to postpone the polls in UP in view of the Omicron threat. Bhushan informed the EC that Uttarakhand and Goa had 100% coverage of first dose of Covid vaccine. It was around 85% in UP, 79% in Punjab and 70% in Manipur, he said. The EC requested that coverage be taken to 100% or as high as possible. Coverage of the second dose in Uttarakhand and Goa was almost 80%, he said, adding that UP, Punjab and Manipur, however, were much behind. The EC told the health secretary to ensure that all those who had completed three months since their first dose are identified and administered the second dose without delay.
The EC also met representatives of ITBP and Sashastra Seema Bal, which guard the international border in Uttarakhand and UP, and asked them to step up surveillance to prevent any attempt by external forces to vitiate the polls. A discussion with the BSF, which is deployed along the Indo-Pakistan border in Punjab, will be held later.
The EC is likely to announce polls in the five states anytime after January 5, by when the updated rolls with respect to January 1, 2022 as the reference date are expected to be published.


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