FOCUS ON MAOIST-HIT JUNGLEMAHAL
By bappaditya paul
The Election Commission (EC) will deploy 350 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) for the fourth phase of Lok Sabha polls in Bengal ~ in Maoist-hit Junglemahal and adjacent Asansol. The Commission is tightening security to ensure peaceful polls in six parliamentary constituencies covering Junglemahal on 7 May. The poll panel is also pressing into service two helicopters for aerial surveillance and emergency evacuation, besides six anti-landmine vehicles to detect land mines.
The 350 companies of Central troops that comprise around 35,000 jawans, would be joined by another 30,000 personnel from the state police. The 65,000-odd cumulative forces will be deployed in all the six Parliamentary constituencies of Jhargram, Midnapore, Purulia, Bankura, Bishnupur and Asansol. All these six seats fall in the Maoist-hit areas either partially or in entirety. The total number of polling booths in these constituencies is 11,321 and of them, 1,633 booths are located in the government-notified Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected Assembly segments of Jhargram, Binpur, Bandwan, Balarampur, Baghmundi and Joypur. The poll panel has already reduced the voting hours in these six Assembly segments by two hours; the voting there will take place from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. while in the remaining Assembly segments the voting will continue till 6 p.m.
Sources in the EC said that all the LWE-affected polling booths would get one section (6 jawans) or above of the Central troops. “The Union Home Ministry has given a relaxation allowing deployment of half section of Central forces in polling booths that are not critical or affected by insurgency. Hence, after meeting the requirement of the LWE-hit booths, we shall still be able to post Central forces in a large number of regular booths,” said an official. “It will be safe to say that in the 4th phase around 70 per cent of the booths will be covered by Central forces.” To finalise the deployment plan, Special Observer Sudhir Kumar Rakesh and state Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Kumar Gupta held a marathon meeting with the Bengal ADG (law and order) M K Singh on the evening of 3 May.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 04 May 2014.)