Four phase Lok Sabha poll likely in Bengal

18 APRIL – 11 MAY PROBABLE POLLING WINDOW; LWE DISTRICTS OR NORTH BENGAL TO VOTE FIRST

By bappaditya paul 

The Lok Sabha poll in West Bengal, in all probability, will be held in four phases from mid-April with more or less equal number of parliamentary constituencies voting in each phases. Either north Bengal or the three Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-affected districts along with contiguous Burdwan is likely to vote in the first phase.

Ballot box The gap between each of the poll phases will be six to seven days; the broad polling window will run from 18 April to 11 May, said an Election Commission (EC) source.

The total number of Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal is 42. Of them, seven constituencies fall in LWE-hit West Midnapore, Birbhum, Bankura and Purulia districts. Burdwan has three seats. In the six North Bengal districts, the number of constituencies is eight and the neighbouring Murshidabad has three.

The rationale behind planning an early poll in the LWE-affected areas is the extreme heat that the region experiences from late April.

“In the 2011 Assembly poll, voting in LWE areas was held in two phases in the month of May when it was extremely hot. The administration faced a real tough time and a few polling officials and voters had even died of sunstroke,” a source from the state Chief Electoral Office (CEO) said.
“Keeping this in mind, it has been proposed that the polling be held in the LWE areas first when the temperature is relatively low.”

Map-of-West-BengalIn north Bengal: Darjeeling, Cooch Behar, North and South Dinajpur have one seat each, two each in Jalpaiguri and Malda; while there are three seats in Murshidabad district.

“If not the LWE-hit areas, then north Bengal and the contiguous Murshidabad will be the one to vote in the first phase. In that case, the poll in LWE districts and Burdwan will be conducted in the second phase,” said another EC source.

The logic behind placing North Bengal in one of the first two phases is the early arrival of monsoon in the region that often results in flood-like situation.

Next, the 10 Lok Sabha constituencies falling in Howrah (2), Hooghly (3), East Midnapore (3) and Nadia (2) are likely to vote in the third phase.
This will be followed by the last and fourth phase polling in two constituencies in Kolkata, five in North 24-Parganas and four in South 24-Parganas.

EVM“The four-phase poll has been proposed by the state CEO’s office on the basis of ground realities prevailing in West Bengal. The EC however, might modify the phases, as the Lok Sabha polls are to be held throughout the country,” said the EC source.

In 2009, the Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal were held in three phases on 30 April, 7 May and 13 May.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman under a different headline on 28 February 2014.)

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EC to train journalists for Lok Sabha polls

By bappaditya paul
In a first, the Election Commission (EC) will conduct a training session for journalists covering the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls. In West Bengal, the session will be held at Sisir Mancha in Kolkata on 4 March.

Boom boom According to the state Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Mr Sunil Kumar Gupta, the session tagged as ‘media workshop’, will delve into all aspects related to the election. This is being done on the lines of an workshop that was conducted today for the nine recognised political parties in the state.

“The emphasis for the media workshop will obviously be on subjects like paid news, functioning of the media monitoring and certification committees, Model Code of Conduct and the Section 127A of the Representation of the People Act that put certain conditions on the printing of pamphlets, posters etc,” Mr Gupta said.

Apart from the CEO, the various joint and deputy secretaries attached to the CEO’s office will impart the training to journalists. Each of them will speak on an election related subject that they are handling.

ECI headquarters in New DelhiJournalists accredited to the state headquarters will be invited for the one-day session; the state Information and Cultural Affairs Department is preparing a list of such journalists and they will extend the invitation on behalf of the EC. The CEO’s office is hoping that over 200 media persons will attend the event.

In the workshop for political parties held today, almost all parties but the Trinamul Congress urged the CEO to ensure deployment of Central paramilitary personnel in each of the polling booths. Of the nine recognised political parties invited to the workshop, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) remained absent.

The state assistance CEO, Mr Amit Jyoti Bhattacharya informed that the EC would hold a special camp in all polling stations in the state after the announcement of election dates, wherein the voters will be able to check out if their names have appeared in the latest electoral roll.

Sisir Mancha Kolkata“It will be a one-day camp to be conducted on a holiday and a block level officer (BLO) will be there to assist the voters. The voters will check if their names have found place in the roll. In case it hasn’t, they will be given a Form 6 which they can fill-in on the spot and submit to the BLO,” he said. A voter will also be able to find out the presence of his/her name in the roll by sending the EPIC number in a SMS to 9433633333.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 26 February 2014.)

International naval drill at Port Blair

17 COUNTRIES TO PARTICIPATE IN 6-DAY EVENT FROM 4 FEB

By bappaditya paul
Come 4 February
and Port Blair will be home to a six-day international Naval exercise with participation of the navies and maritime forces from 17 countries across the globe. Tagged as MILAN 2014  and being hosted by the Andaman and Nicobar Command of the Indian Navy, the event will be the largest ever gathering of Naval forces held in India.

A file photo of Milan 2012. - Photo Indian Navy
A file photo of Milan 2012.
– Photo Indian Navy

One of the high points of the event is a Passage Exercise of naval manoeuvres at sea wherein the visiting ships of all the 17 countries will participate. This will be on 9 February, the last day of the six-day event.
The Golden Jubilee of the oldest naval base in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, INS Jarawa commissioned in 1964, will also be celebrated during the event.

The countries that are participating in the exercise come not just from the Bay of Bengal and the South East Asia; a number of navies hailing from the broad Indian Ocean Region (lOR) have also confirmed participation.This assumes special significance at a time when the Indian Navy has suffered several setbacks at close quarters in the form of mishaps etcetera.

According to Captain PVS Satish, the PRO of the Indian Navy based in New Delhi, the countries that have already confirmed participation in the international event include Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Thailand.

Indian Navy logo
Indian Navy logo

“This is a congregation of littoral navies conducted biennially in Port Blair. Besides fostering co-operation through naval exercises and professional interactions, MILAN provides an excellent opportunity for participating navies to come together in a spirit of collaboration and to enhance mutual understanding,” Captain Satish said in an e-mailed response.

The first version of MILAN was held in 1995 with participation of navies only from four countries. But over the years the event has gained popularity; in the immediate past edition held in 2012, it had witnessed participation of 14 foreign navies.

Marine Commandos of Indian Navy demonstrate a water para jump from AN -32 aircraft  during Milan 2010. - Photo courtesy Indian Navy
Marine Commandos of Indian Navy demonstrate a water para jump from AN -32 aircraft during Milan 2010. – Photo courtesy Indian Navy

This time the event is being held with the underlying theme of Friendship Across the Seas and will showcase a diverse mix of professional interactions, social events and sporting fixtures. These include sharing of ideas on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) and Search and Rescue (SAR) operations at sea on 5 February, a display by the Rapid Action Medical Team of the Indian Air Force, demonstrations by a sky diving team on 8 February.

Again on 8 February, there will be an International City Parade along the Marina Park Road in Port Blair with marching contingents from all the participating navies, the Indian Armed Forces, a fly past by military aircraft and demonstrations of various military operations.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 01 February 2014.)