After 3 States Finish Voting, EC Wakes Up to Reiterate COVID Norms
EC said it will “not hesitate” in banning public meetings & rallies of political leaders in cases of breach.
The Election Commission of India, in a letter dated 9 April to national and state political parties, reiterated the guidelines for strict observance of COVID-19 protocols during election rallies, meetings and campaigning, saying that the poll body "will not hesitate" in banning these in cases of breach.
Coming amid the worrying surge in COVID-19 cases across the country, the letter stated that instances of election meetings and campaigns have come to the notice of the Commission, where norms of physical distancing and wearing of masks, have been flouted in disregard to its guidelines issued last year.
“Instances of star campaigners/political leaders/candidates not observing COVID protocols including non-wearing of masks themselves at stage or while campaigning have come to notice... The Commission has taken a serious view of the laxity in maintaining the norms, particularly not wearing masks and not keeping social distance by political leaders on dais/stage and therefore, reiterates the said guidelines... for observance in all seriousness. [sic]”Election Commission letter
"It is advisable that political leaders/candidates who have incumbent duty to control the spread of COVID, demonstrate by their personal example and nudge all supporters in the beginning of rally, meetings, campaign itself to wear masks, use sanitisers and put in place crowd control measures as per social distancing norms," the letter further went on to say.
The COVID-related guidelines issued by the EC in August last year, ahead of the Bihar Assembly elections, had called for the use face maks, sanitisers, thermal scanners, among other things, and warned of action under the Disaster Management Act and the Indian Penal Code in case of violations.
Polling in 3 States, 1 UT Already Done
However, the letter by the poll body comes after polling in three states and one Union territory – Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry – has already concluded.
In West Bengal too, voting has concluded for the three phases out of eight. Polling for the fourth phase is underway.
Till now, visuals from across these states conducting Assembly elections have shown an open disregard towards COVID-appropriate behaviour by political leaders and crowds alike, including the lack of physical distancing and not wearing masks.
The results for the elections in all the four states and one Union territory will be announced on 2 May,
For the past several weeks, India has been showing an alarming rise in the number of daily coronavirus cases, in what is being termed the second wave of the pandemic.
On Saturday, India reported 1,45,384 new coronavirus cases, the biggest one-day rise in the country ever since the pandemic began, taking the tally to 1,32,05,926. Meanwhile, the death toll increased by 794 to 1,68,436.
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