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Top EC official reviews poll preparations in Bengal, says law & order bad

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Kolkata, Jan 14: Deputy Election Commissioner Sudip Jain on Thursday reviewed preparations for holding assembly elections in West Bengal, and voiced concern over the law and order situation in the state, sources in the office of the state's Chief Electoral officer (CEO), said.

Top EC official reviews poll preparations in Bengal, says law & order bad

West Bengal has witnessed political turmoil and frequent clashes between the ruling TMC and challenger BJP over the last couple of years.

The skirmishes have claimed several lives and left many injured, with both sides blaming each other for triggering violence. Jain warned that officers found wanting in effectively discharging their duties will be removed from their positions.

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Jain, according to officers present at the meeting, made it clear that the kind of violence seen in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls was "unacceptable".

"The Commission may take strong steps against officers found neglecting their duties. They will be removed. The Commission is looking at the assembly election as a challenge and it is determined to conduct a free and fair poll," an officer said on condition of anonymity. Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay, Home Secretary H K Dwivedi and Director General of Police (DGP) Virendra attended the meeting.

"Some criminals even operate from inside the jails. He asked DMs and SPs to get specific information about such criminals in jails and their activities and send it to the Election Commission within seven days," the official said, insisting he not be named.

Jain also spoke to Education Secretary Manish Jain and Health Secretary Narayan Swarup Nigam about the condition of school buildings, destroyed by cyclone Amphan, as COVID-19 protocols will require social distancing during the vote and setting up of more polling stations. Sources said the state will require additional 28,000 polling booths.

Since most of these polling stations are located in public buildings like schools, the Election Commission wants them to be repaired and restored before the polls.

Jain said the EC will keep in mind the West Bemgal school board examinations, likely to start in June, before finalising the election schedule. A team led by Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora is likely to visit West Bengal later this month to review the state's preparedness for the assembly elections.

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