‘World’s biggest festival of democracy’ begins

102 Lok Sabha seats, 16.63 crore voters, 1.87 lakh polling stations, 18 lakh personnel in Phase 1

GN Bureau | April 19, 2024


#Election Commission of India   #Elections  
The CEC addressed a press meet on March 16 to announce the schedule of General Elections
The CEC addressed a press meet on March 16 to announce the schedule of General Elections

The much-awaited General Elections of 2024, billed as the world’s biggest festival of democracy, began on Friday with Phase 1 of polling in 102 Parliamentary Constituencies (the highest among all seven phases) in 21 States/ UTs and 92 Assembly Constituencies in the State Assembly Elections in Arunachal and Sikkim.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has made all preparations to facilitate voters in the largest electoral exercise any nation has witnessed. On this occasion, the Commission also reiterated its uncompromising commitment to deliver a free, fair, peaceful, accessible, participative and inducement-free poll, an official release said on Thursday.

The Commission and its teams across States and Union Territories, in the last two years have put in necessary hard work and meticulous interventions to give India's electors the best possible experience. The polling has come after numerous consultations, reviews, field visits, extensive training of officials and building of new and time appropriate operating procedures. It has also involved collaboration with a large spectrum of agencies, organisations countrywide.  

The Commission comprising CEC Rajiv Kumar and ECs Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu gave final touches to poll preparations on Thursday noon for a smooth run of Phase 1. The remaining six phases of polls will continue till June 1 with around 97 crore voters eligible to vote. Counting of votes scheduled on June 4.

The Commission considers that it is the time now for voters to act. It has with all sincerity appealed to voters to step out of their homes, go to the polling station and vote with responsibility and pride.  In a nationally televised message, CEC Rajiv Kumar appealed to all voters to vote without fail.

Phase 1 at a glance:

*Over 18 lakh Polling officials will welcome over 16.63 crore voters across 1.87 lakh polling stations
* Voters include 8.4 crore Male; 8.23 crore Female and 11,371 Third gender electors.
* 35.67 lakh first time voters are registered  to cast their votes. Additionally, there are 3.51 crore young voters in the age group 20-29 years.
* 1,625 candidates (Males: 1,491; Females: 134) are in the fray.
* 41 helicopters, 84 Special trains and nearly 1 lakh vehicles have been deployed to ferry polling and security personnel.

Ensuring Peace and Purity
The Commission has taken a slew of decisive measures for  peaceful and smooth conduct of the elections. Central forces have been deployed adequately at polling stations to secure the polling process.

Webcasting will be done in more than 50 % of the polling stations along with deployment of micro observers in all polling stations.

361 Observers (127 General Observers, 67 Police Observers, 167 Expenditure Observers) have already reached their Constituencies days before the polls. They serve as the eyes and ears of the Commission to exercise utmost vigilance. Additionally, Special Observers have been deployed in certain states.

A total of 4,627 Flying Squads, 5,208 Statistics Surveillance Teams, 2,028 Video Surveillance Teams and 1,255 Video Viewing Teams are keeping surveillance round the clock to strictly and swiftly deal with any form of inducement of voters.

A total of 1374 inter-state and 162 international Border check posts are keeping strict vigil on any illicit flow of liquor, drugs, cash and freebies. Strict surveillance has been kept at sea and air routes.

Voter Facilitation and Support
There are over 14.14 lakh registered 85+ years old and 13.89 lakh PwD voters in 102 PCs who have been provided the option to vote from the comfort of their homes. The optional Home Voting facility is already receiving tremendous appreciation and response.

Those among 85 + and PwD voters and deciding to come to polling stations will be provided with all facilities like pick and drop facility, signages, braille signage on EVM, volunteers etc. PwD voters can also book wheelchair facilities via ECI Saksham App.

Assured Minimum Facilities like water, shed, toilets, ramps, volunteers, wheelchairs, and electricity are in place to ensure that every voter, including elderly and persons with disabilities, can cast their vote with ease.

Model polling stations are being set up across the 102 PCs with local themes. More than 5000 Polling stations will be completely managed by women including security staff and at over 1000 Polling stations by  Persons with Disabilities (PwDs).

Voter Information Slips have been distributed to all registered voters. These slips serve as a facilitation measure and also as an invitation from the Commission to come and vote.

Voters can check their polling station details, and poll date through this link https://electoralsearch.eci.gov.in/

The Commission has also provided 12 alternative documents other than Voter Id card (EPIC) for identity verification at polling stations. If a voter is registered in the electoral roll, voting can be done by showing any of these documents.

Background
In the last two years, the Commission has visited many States/UTs to review the poll preparedness. The Commission interacted with political parties, enforcement agencies, all District Officers, SSPs/SPs, Divisional Commissioners, Range IGs, CS/DGPs and other senior officers of the States/UTs.

There were multiple conferences and review meetings with the Chief Electoral Officers and their teams to find out any gaps and ways to fill them. A team of senior officers visited various States to review the overall preparedness of the election machinery including law and order situation, specific areas of concern, and the quantum of Central Armed Police Forces requirement.

As part of the review, Election Commission of India also convened a crucial meeting with all States/UTs to review and assess the law-and-order situation, prevention of illicit activities, seizures and strict vigil across inter-state and international borders in the ongoing General Elections to Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies 2024 for a free, fair, peaceful and inducement free elections. The purpose of the combined review was to bring all concerned stakeholders together on the same platform for a seamless coordination and cooperation amongst officials of the neighbouring states/UTs along with central agencies guarding the borders. The Commission, in detail, reviewed critical issues pertaining to each State/UT.

Prior to the announcement of the General Elections, the Commission also briefed over 2100 General, Police and Expenditure Observers for the General Elections.

Aiming to enhance voter turnout, ahead of the polling in the ongoing General Elections, ECI also held a Conference on Low Voter Turnout voter with focus on Parliamentary Constituencies  with a history of low poll participation in previous General Elections.

The entire election machinery has been trained on all aspects of election management. All instructions / manuals / handbooks have been comprehensively updated and available on ECI website.
 

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