New Delhi, March 20: In order to ensure accuracy in information tendered by candidates during the upcoming assembly polls, the Election Commission has deployed hundreds of specially trained 'return preparers' who will assist the contestants in filing affidavits and expenditure statements.
The unique module is called the Election Commission Return Preparers (ECRP) scheme and will be available in each district of the four states (West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala) and the Union Territory of Puducherry going to polls, beginning April 4.
The ECRPs' exclusive task is to assist candidates in e-filing of affidavits and abstract statements of expenditure made during polls.
In order to popularise the scheme and make it easy for contestants, the EC has decided to bear all expenses for the services rendered by the preparers. Officials said the EC will pay Rs 1,200 to the ECRPs for services rendered by them to one candidate.
The novel scheme has been borrowed from a similar mechanism developed by the IT department in 2006-07 called the Tax Return Preparer Scheme (TRPS). It seeks to assist small and marginal taxpayers in preparing and filing their IT returns, at times complicated due to multiple documentation, by charging a nominal fee.
Officials said while a total of 111 such ECRPs have been deployed in West Bengal, in Kerala a private institute which had trained TRPs for the tax department has been tasked with the job, while similar arrangements have been made for Assam, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. "The EC will bear the expenses of Rs 1,200 for each such preparer.
The scheme is aimed to ensure quick and error-free filing of affidavits and post-poll expenditure statements by those who try their luck at the hustings. "Taking the help of these trained preparers will also help in reducing the problem of wrong declarations, thereby helping the candidates in avoiding misreporting of facts and earning the Commission's ire," a senior official said.
Many of the preparers chosen by the poll body for help in these elections are trained TRPs of the IT department, the official said.
The Commission, in order to usher in transparency in the polls process, has already enabled e-filing of affidavits and expenditure statements by the candidates.
They said the EC has also asked all the Chief Electoral Officers of these poll-bound states to ensure that there are at least two such preparers in each district and their contacts details are prominently displayed on their respective web portals and in the offices of the district returning officers.
While the states go to poll in phases on different dates between April 4 and May 16, the counting of votes is scheduled on May 19. The candidates are required to file affidavits furnishing various details at the time of nomination and need to submit expenditure details within 30 days of the declaration of results.