Thursday, November 30, 2023

Polls amid Omicron scare: Suggestions for the Election Commission

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Senior officials of the Election Commission(EC) on Monday met the Union Health secretary Rajesh Bhushan and reviewed the Covid situation of the states where the assembly elections are due in the next few months. Sources aware of the meetings said the Health Secretary briefed the poll panel for nearly an hour on the Covid situation in the poll-bound states.

The Election Commission is expected to announce election dates next month for assembly elections in Goa, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur, and Uttar Pradesh.

Conducting state polls in the midst of a pandemic will be even more challenging with the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Some pointers that can be considered while designing an action plan for conducting election during the pandemic:

  1. EC must form an advisory board of doctors for polls amid Covid.
  2. The advisory board must include doctors from ICMR, private doctors and other doctor bodies.
  3. EC must form permanent guidelines on polls amid Covid surge.
  4. The advisory board of doctors must be permanent in nature.
  5. The advisory board should come up with election guidelines.
  6. Guidelines should apply for all elections – national, state, civic and even bypolls.
  7. The guidelines must automatically come into effect if the cases rise beyond a pre-decided limit.
  8. During meetings with stakeholders to inspect poll preparedness EC must include a team of local doctors.
  9. The guidelines must be formed with both Health Ministry and doctor board’s recommendations.
  10. A positivity rate threshold should be set beyond which polls should be postponed.

Earlier, an Allahabad High Court bench of Justice Shekhar Yadav had urged PM Modi and the EC to consider postponing the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections for a month or two and banning all political rallies amid the fears of an impending third wave of Covid. However, there are no indications of the EC willing to act on the appeal.

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