By bappaditya paul
In addition to block-level observers, the West Bengal State Election Commission (SEC) this time has appointed a district observer in each of the 17 districts where panchayat polls are to be held on 2, 6 and 9 July.
Deploying district observers for all the districts for the panchayat polls is something unprecedented. Earlier, district observers had been deployed only in select districts where the SEC was particularly apprehensive of electoral malpractice or poll violence.
The move assumes significance in the light of the continuing tussle between the SEC and the state government over poll security, and the district observers’ reports will play a significant role in deciding the poll panel’s course of action in the event of any untoward situation.
According to SEC sources, the 17 district observers appointed for the rural polls are IAS officers. They will start functioning right from the beginning of the nomination process ~ which begins tomorrow for the first phase poll scheduled for 2 July.
The district observers will monitor the overall situation pertaining to the political, administrative and law and order scenario of the district and keep the poll panel updated on a regular basis.
“The jurisdiction of the block-level observers is confined to the respective blocks. But in the election process we need certain information about the entire district and that is why district observers have been appointed. We had earlier done so during the Kolkata Municipal Corporation poll,” state election commissioner Mira Pande said.
SEC secretary Tapas Ray said they were preparing a separate format for reporting by the district observers.
“The district observers will be required to send at least three fixed reports before, during and after the polls. Apart from this, they will keep us updated about the situation in the districts on a routine basis and recommend the commission’s intervention whenever necessary.”
The SEC has also raised the number of mandatory fixed reporting by the block-level observers from three to four and inserted some clauses that will enable it to monitor the actual availability of security forces on the ground.
(The author is Senior Reporter, The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 29 May 2013.)