Friday, December 1, 2023

Elections amid Omicron scare: Time EC formulates medical panel?

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The Election Commission of India is up for a challenge as five states, i.e Goa, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Manipur gear up to go into polls early next year. As the states rush to impose curbs amid the rapid spread of Omicron cases, the commission is seeking updates from the health secretary and visiting poll-bound states to take stock of the situation.

Before the elections are announced, an Allahabad High Court bench of Justice Shekhar Yadav has urged the government and the poll panel to consider postponing the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections for a month and banning all political rallies. Though there have been no hints of the assembly elections being postponed, the big question is how does one go about elections amid a global pandemic. What should be done in the longer run? Is postponing the elections the only solution?

Some recommendations for the election commission include forming an advisory board for doctors for polls amid Covid. The advisory board must include doctors from ICMR, private doctors and other doctor bodies. EC must form permanent guidelines on polls amid Covid surge and the advisory board of doctors must be permanent in nature. The advisory board should come up with election guidelines and the guidelines should apply for all elections- national, state, civic and even bypolls. The guidelines must automatically come into effect if the cases rise beyond a pre-decided limit. During meetings with stakeholders to inspect poll preparedness, EC must include a team of local doctors. The guidelines must be formed with both health ministry and doctor board’s recommendations. Moreover, a positivity rate threshold should be set beyond which polls should be postponed.

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