EC makes special arrangements for 'weaker sections'

New Delhi, March 12: The Election Commission on Saturday directed the authorities in five election-bound states to identify localities predomintly inhabited by the "weaker sections" to help ensure their participation in the polling process.

In an order, the commission said polling stations in these localities "irrespective of the number of electors" need to be identified "so that the weaker section electors would not have to go to an area where they might be prevented from voting".

Elections to assemblies in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil du and Puducherry are to be held in April and May. The order is part of the initiatives taken by the commission "to enhance the quality of voting experience for the esteemed electors, more particularly the special categories of voters in terms of ease, comfort and facilitation".

As part of this move, in case of a leprosy satorium being located within a constituency, a separate polling station will have to be set up "exclusively for the inmates".

"In certain areas where women folk feel inhibited in mingling with male members due to social practice or custom, in those areas separate polling station for men and women with separate queues for either gender would be provided," the commission said.

"In areas where there are large number of 'parda-shin' (veiled) women electors are assigned to a polling station, a lady officer would be appointed as polling officer for identification and application of indelible ink," it said.

Special arrangements, facilities and facilitation for old and infirm persons and pregnt women would also be made in the polling stations.

Nearly 170 million people will be eligible to vote in the staggered elections that will see two-phase polling in Assam and six-phase polling in West Bengal.

Kerala, Tamil du and Puducherry will have single day polling.

Assam (126 seats) will vote on April 4 and 11 and West Bengal (294 seats) on April 4-11, 17, 21, 25 and 30 and May 5.

Kerala (140 seats), Tamil du (234 seats) and Puducherry (30 seats) will go to the polls on May 16.

Counting of votes in all five states will take place on May 19.

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