Civic body lagging behind in making adequate preparations for the forthcoming polls

The GHMC may be making record property tax collection this year, but it has been lagging behind in making adequate preparations for the forthcoming general elections. With less than a month for the voting to begin, the civic body responsible for conducting elections to 15 Assembly and three Lok Sabha constituencies is yet to get its act together, senior officials, seeking anonymity admit.

The election related staff to man the polling booths and oversee the election process, observers, squads, etc., are yet to be finalised though the Election Commission has set in the motion more than a month ago. Senior officials estimate that as many as 42,000 poll staff are required and only in the last few days that the gap has come down to 10,000 staff.

Problem is that out of the 25,000-odd staff of the municipal corporation, 18,000 from the sanitation wing are involved in sweeping and lifting garbage and hence, cannot be displaced for election work. Rest of the staff have been super busy in mopping up the property tax collection with GHMC Commissioner Somesh Kumar breathing down their necks, literally.

Some of it is not the GHMC’s making though, it is pointed out. Till the EC made amends and declared Mr. Kumar as the District Election Officer (DEO) in the place of Rahul Bojja, the Special Commissioner, the drive was for tax. Extending the last date for voters’ enrolment till March 31, has led to delay in deciding the auxiliary or additional polling stations other than the existing 3,300-odd polling stations dotting the capital.

“EC’s norms say an additional polling booth for every 1,600 extra voters and the precise numbers can come only when the enrolment process is halted,” cry senior officials. With limited time frame, few buildings available (especially in the old city) and already 3.5 lakh new voters enrolled, election officials are clueless on where to accommodate the extra booths because not more than four booths are allowed in a building.

Inadequate staff is also leading to comical situations. For instance, many officials found their names in all the teams – flying squads, video observers, expenditure observers, static surveillance teams, web casting teams, etc. However, there is optimism everything will be sorted out soon. “Now that tax collection is over, we hope to get everything in place in a couple of days,” remark senior officials.

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