As Rajarajeshwari Nagar assembly constituency goes into bypolls today, how well is the administration prepared to control the spread of COVID?
The Election Commission of India (ECI) had released its guidelines for elections in all states including Karnataka, on August 21. Inputs from political parties were considered while preparing these. Further, the ECI had allowed States to come up with their own guidelines. And as per this, Karnataka government released its guidelines on October 16.
As per these documents, following are the measures that would be taken on polling day:
- The polling booth should be completely sanitised, preferably a day before polling.
- There can be a maximum of 1000 voters, instead of 1500, per polling station.
- Every person should wear a face mask during every election-related activity. However, voters will have to lower their masks for identification.
- Hand sanitiser should be provided to each voter. These will be kept at appropriate locations with clearly visible directions of use. Soap and water should be made available for handwashing as well.
- Paramedical staff or ASHA workers should be deployed at the entry to the polling booth, for carrying out thermal scanning of voters.
- If high temperature is recorded for a voter, their temperature will be checked twice. If the same temperature persists, oxygen saturation will be checked using pulse oximeter. The voter will then be given a token or certificate, and will be asked to come during the last hour of the poll. At the last hour of the poll, the voter would be handled with utmost care as per COVID precautions.
- Quarantined patients too can vote in the last hour, with strict measures and under the supervision of health authorities. Sector magistrates will coordinate their movement to and from the polling booth.
- In the last hour, polling will be allowed in the following order of priority:
- Persons from containment zones
- Contacts in home quarantine
- Persons with COVID-like symptoms
- COVID-positive persons, who will wear full PPE kit and arrive in a dedicated ambulance
- Help desks should be established to distribute tokens to voters on a first-come-first-serve basis, so as to avoid queuing outside the booth. These help desks, manned by the Booth Level Officer, will provide face masks to those who aren’t carrying it.
- A Nodal Health Officer should be designated for the district and the assembly constituency to oversee all COVID arrangements.
- Large rooms/halls should be identified for the preparation and distribution of election materials.
- Social distancing norms should be implemented as per guidelines issued by the State Health Department as well as the Centre’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Booth Level Officers and volunteers should strictly ensure social distancing.
- Markers should be used to highlight social distancing spots at a gap of 2 yards. Also, three separate queues should be created – for men, women, and for persons with disability or senior citizens.
- Shaded waiting areas will be arranged in station premises.
- Voters are encouraged to bring their own pens to the polling stations. If they don’t have a pen, the polling officer will sanitise the pen available and give it to the voter for signing the register.
- At any given point of time, only one person will be allowed to stand in front of the polling officials, maintaining social distancing. Gloves will be provided to the voter for signing the register and for casting his/her vote on the electronic voting machine (EVM).
- Mask, sanitiser, face shield and gloves should be provided to all security personnel and polling officials.
- Adequate vehicles should be available for the movement of security personnel and election officials, and COVID guidelines on social distancing and ventilation should be ensured in these.
- Awareness posters on COVID should be used in the polling booth.
- Vote counting centers should be sanitised before, during and after counting.
- Sufficient number of polling and counting staff should be kept in reserve, so that they can replace personnel who show COVID symptoms.
- Anybody violating these guidelines can be booked under Sections 51 to 60 (penalties and punishments for refusing to comply with directions given by or on behalf of the Central Government, State Government, National Executive Committee, State Executive Committee or the District Authority) of the Disaster Management Act 2005, and Section 188 (Disobedience to order promulgated by a public servant) of the Indian Penal Code, and other legal rules as applicable.