As a run-up to the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls and Legislative Assembly elections of four states, the Election Commission of India on Thursday organised the first briefing for Observers to be deployed in various states across the country. Over 1800 senior officers drawn from IAS, IPS, IRS officers as also from other Central Services attended the briefing. These officers are being deployed as General, Police and Expenditure Observers, read a statement.
Reminding the Observers of their crucial role, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora pointed out that the officers need to be earnest and have no choice but to ensure that no mistakes are committed.
Arora recalled that in the recent state elections held, it took all of miniscule percentages of instances of slippages in following the laid down protocol for EVM-VVPAT procedures or missing out of few names from the electoral roll, or delay in the counting of votes, rendering all other good work done in the background, the statement added.
Arora further noted that with changing times, concerns about abuse of money power and also social media are posing newer challenges. He said the endeavour of ECI is not only to conduct free and fair elections but also transparent, clean and ethical elections.
Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa reminded the group that as Observers, they need to ensure implementation of all instructions of the ECI in letter and spirit. He mentioned that the recently launched CVigil App has helped empower every citizen to help the Commission keep a vigilant eye for Model Code violations. But the availability of this App has itself put more responsibility on officers managing and overseeing the electoral system, the statement read.
“He reiterated that the Observers need to be accessible and available to all stakeholders on the ground as the officers are literally the extended arms of ECI in the field,” the statement added.
Addressing the officers, Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra drew the attention of the officers that as Observers their role is to be eyes and ears of the Commission in keeping a watchful eye and to take all preventive measures to ensure free and fair elections.
He pointed out that the role of Expenditure Observers becomes crucial when methods of inducements to voters are becoming very innovative too, the statement read.
“During the day-long briefing sessions, the officers were given comprehensive and thorough inputs about the various aspects of election management by the Senior Deputy Election Commissioner, DECs and DGs of ECI. Detailed thematic presentations were made on Election planning, Observer’s roles and responsibilities, electoral roll issues, enforcement of Model Code of Conduct, legal provisions, EVM/VVPAT management, media engagement and the wide array of activities undertaken for voter facilitation under the Commission’s flagship SVEEP (Systematic Voter’s Education and Electoral Participation) programme. The Observers were also acquainted with the various IT initiatives and mobile applications launched by the Commission for voter facilitation as well as effective and efficient management of election process in the field,” the statement read.
Moreover, the Observers were provided a functional demonstration of EVMs and VVPATs and briefed about the multifarious technical security features, administrative protocols and procedural safeguards that surround the EVM ecosystem to make it completely secure, robust, reliable, non-tamperable and credible.
The Election Commission for the first time has also started a new mobile app called ‘Observer App’.
“Using this App, General, Police and Expenditure observers can submit their Observer’s report securely to ECI to upload the relevant document from the mobile app. The Observers will get all important notifications, alerts, and urgent messages on this App while they are on duty. It will also facilitate observers to get their deployment status, download the ID card and update their profile,” the statement read.
“Since the observers will be closely involved in real-time disposal of the cVIGIL Model code and expenditure violation cases, this App would help see all the cVIGIL cases under their jurisdiction. The Observers can make a written observation after the flying squads have investigated the matter. Observers are put on deputation with ECI for the entire duration of the election process,” it added.