Lok Sabha Election 2019: Conducting world’s largest election is not an easy task. Election Commission of India makes elaborate security arrangements so that India’s nearly 90 crore eligible voters can safely exercise their democratic right. This time it has deployed nearly 23 lakh Jawans of central forces and state police for smooth conduct of Lok Sabha elections, which is largest deployment of police forces on election duty anywhere in the world. However, this is not the sheer number but the way these forces are strategically deployed that makes all the difference.
Election Commission has made elaborate security arrangements so that every voter can access polling booths and cast his or her vote without fear or intimidation. It has deployed over 2.7 lakh Jawans of central forces like CRPF, CISF, BSF, SSB and ITBP in addition to more than 20 lakh Jawanas and home guards of state police forces.
Election Commission uses a special randomization software for assigning duties to election officials and police forces to be deployed at polling stations that is critical for conducting peaceful election.
“Randomisation is important as an official does not know where he has been deployed till the last minute,” said Nitin Tiwari, an Indian Police Service officer with Uttar Pradesh police.
“We have two kind of forces in election duty. We deploy local police in law and order duties like manning barricades and patrolling etc because they are familiar with the area. However, polling booths and counting centres are manned by paramilitary forces which are mostly from outside the state, ” Nitin Tiwari, SSP, Meerut, told Financial Express Online.
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The IPS officer, who has supervised security arrangements for two assembly elections in the state in 2012 and 2017, and two Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and 2019, says the force deployment plan for election duty requires approval from four officials, two from district administration and two observers, General Observer and Police Observer, directly appointed by the poll panel. This process is aimed at removing any possibility of interference by the ruling party in any state as district administration cannot deploy police personnel without the approval of election observers.
Politicisation of state police forces and election machinery is well known. In order to deal with this problem, the election commission has developed a well laid out plan of randomisation that ensures the last moment deployment of polling and force personnel at polling booths and counting centres.
Under the three tier system of randomisation, election commission uses a special randomisation software to deploy police and election officials to thwart any possibility of interference by state and district administration.
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Three stage randomisation
In the first stage, polling parties are constituted randomly with the help of a special software. The process involves randomly picking at least 20% more officers than the required number, then this group is trained for election duty.
In the second stage, polling parties are formed from this group of trained officials. This process also involves randomisation through special software, however, in the second stage General Observers appointed by Election Commision get involved to ensure the integrity of the randomisation process.
In the third stage of randomization, polling booths are randomly allocated to these polling parties just before their departure. It means, these randomly created polling parties do not know the specific polling booths where they will be deployed till the time of their departure.
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Similar three-stage randomisation is conducted if state police personnel and home guards are to be deployed at polling stations on the day of voting. Usually, local police is kept out from the deployment at polling booths, counting centres and strong rooms where EVMs and VVPAT machines are kept.
Tackling political interference
Local police administration also takes steps to ensure that politically aligned police personnel are not deployed at sensitive booths.
“We take into account the concerns expressed by political parties and candidates. We ask them to submit a ‘Worry List’ so that we can also identify sensitive booths and take corrective measures. It also helps us to identify and remove any police personnel from sensitive duties that might try to help a political party,” added Nitin Tiwari.
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