Pradeep Singh

The State Election Commissioner (SEC) Aditya Prasad Padhi on Saturday asked all District Collectors and SPs to submit their election management plans for the upcoming Panchayat polls in Odisha by January 28.

The officials were asked to submit their plans to the panel for the three-tier Panchayat elections duiring a high-level (virtual) meeting headed by the SEC in presence of Chief Secretary Suresh Mohapatra, DGP Sunil Bansal, and Collectors and SPs of all the districts.

As the filing of nominations for the polls will begin from tomorrow while voting is scheduled to be held in five phases from February 16 , the panel discussed on the strict enforcement of COVID-19 guidelines during the filing of nominations, scrutiny, campaigning, and counting.

“The discussions revolved around enforcement of Covid-19 guidelines at all the stages- nomination filing, scrutiny, campaigning, and counting. We have also sought suggestions from District Collectors and SPs,” said Padhi.

DGP Sunil Bansal said that conducting the Panchayat elections in a free and fair manner amid the pandemic will be a unique challenge. 

"All arrangements are in place to conduct the rural polls in the State in a disciplined manner. Nodal officers will be appointed in all the districts to enforce the Covid-19 protocols and model code of conduct at all polling stations," he said.

The district administrations have also be asked to ensure safety of strong rooms and install CCTV cameras for 24x7 monitoring. 

Balasore Collector K Sudarshan Chakraborty said, "We had discussions on enforcement of the model code of conduct. We also had a detailed discussion on how to conduct the polls while ensuring strict compliance to the Covid-19 guidelines."

"We are preparing our action plan in association with the police over the facilities need to be ensured at booths, like deployment of polling officials and police personnel, during the elections," said Koraput Collector Abdaal Akhtar.

While the Panchayat polls will be held in five phases on February 16, 18, 20, 22, and 24, the counting of votes and declaration of results will take place at Block levels on February 26, 27, and 28.