– globalbihari bureau
New Delhi: The Election Commission of India has decided not to extend postal ballot facility to electors above 65 years of age in Assembly Elections in Bihar and by-elections due in near future. The decision has been taken in view of constraints of logistics, manpower and safety protocols of Covid 19, the ECI stated on Thursday.
It may be mentioned that due to the pandemic, the lockdown guidelines of the Home Ministry dated May 15, had prescribed that persons above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10 years, “shall stay at home, except for essential and health purposes”. Simultaneously, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare too had prescribed detailed procedure of quarantine (Home/Institutional) for COVID-19 positive/suspect persons vide its instructions on April 5 and May 18.
Considering this extraordinary situation, the ECI had recommended extension of optional postal ballot facilities to voters above 65 years in order to minimize their vulnerability and exposure at the polling stations, and to Covid positive voters and voters under quarantine, so that they were not deprived of their voting rights. On the recommendation of the Commission, Ministry of Law and Justice notified the amended rules accordingly on 19.06.2020.
However, before implementing these enabling provisions, Commission continually assesses the field situation and logistics of operationalization. The ECI stated that it had been constantly monitoring the electoral preparedness for the coming by-elections and General elections of Assembly in Bihar, in view of this unprecedented environment. It said it had already limited the number of electors to one thousand for each polling station for ease of voting, especially for elderly and vulnerable sections of electors, in COVID-19 situations.
“In view of this, the State is creating additional 34,000 (approximately) polling stations (45% more), which will increase the total number of polling stations to around 1,06,000. This would entail formidable logistical challenges of mobilizing 1.8 lakh more polling personnel and other additional resources including requirement of much larger number of vehicles in the State of Bihar. Similar challenges would be there for the coming by-elections also,” it stated and added: “Considering all these issues, challenges and constraints and in view of the decision to limit the number of electors at each polling station to 1000, Commission has decided not to issue the notification to extend the facility of postal ballot to the electors above 65 years of age in the coming General Elections in Bihar and by- elections due in the near future.”
However, facility of optional postal ballot to electors who were above 80 years of age, Person with Disability Voters, the electors engaged in essential services and voters who were COVID-19 positive/suspect in quarantine (home/institutional) would be extended in these elections.