Political parties in Odisha to be advised against conducting outdoor campaigns from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

This year, Odisha’s election schedule coincides with the peak of the harsh summer in May, said Odisha’s Chief Electoral Officer Nikunja Bihari Dhal

Updated - April 04, 2024 03:12 am IST

Published - April 02, 2024 07:40 pm IST - BHUBANESWAR

Odisha’s Chief Electoral Officer Nikunja Bihari Dhal

Odisha’s Chief Electoral Officer Nikunja Bihari Dhal | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Odisha’s Chief Electoral Officer Nikunja Bihari Dhal on Tuesday said political parties will be advised against conducting rallies, processions and public meetings between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. keeping the predictions about heatwave in mind.

As India Meteorological Department projected that heatwave episodes could surge by 2.5 times in the next three months, conducting elections in Odisha, a State highly susceptible to heatwaves, might pose a challenge. However, Mr. Dhal exuded confidence on readiness to tackle the situation.

“This summer is going to be severe. Typically, elections are concluded in Odisha in April. However, this year, Odisha’s election schedule coincides with the peak of the harsh summer season in May,” he remarked

“Ensuring minimal inconvenience for voters and ensuring the well-being of polling parties poses a significant challenge. We are fully aware of these challenges. We will urge political parties to refrain from organising rallies, processions, and public meetings between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., considering the heatwave conditions,” he added.

When queried about the enforceability of the advisory under the Disaster Management Act, he said, “during the last bye-election in Jharsuguda, political parties willingly adhered to our proposal. If compliance can be achieved through persuasion, there is no necessity for enforcing the prohibition.”

On other measures thought of to tackle the heatwave challenge,” Mr, Dhal, “as per the protocol followed in Jharasuguda bye-election held on May 10 last year, we will arrange adequate drinking water with provisions of cold drinks at selected polling booths.”

“If necessity arises, water will be sprayed on voters in queue to beat the heat. In vehicle of every sector officer, a paramedical staff will remain present. Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) packets will be adequately stocked,” said the CEO.

On rescheduling of voting time to evade heatwave, Mr. Dhal said there would be no change in timing of voting “We will, however, allow voters to cast votes if he reaches polling booth before 6 p.m.,” he said.

The CEO ruled out possibility of advancing voting time. “There is little scope of advancing voting time in the morning as officials need to conduct mock polls which will take 1.5 hours. Besides, there will be deployment of women in large number in polling stations. The district level officers are not in favour of starting polls before 7 a.m.,” he said.

This time, 100% booths would be having mandatory electricity, separate toilets, drinking water and ramps and wheel chairs for people with disabilities and senior citizens.

In wake of heatwave conditions, the queue management has been given priority. Polling officers have been instructed to open additional halls in schools or polling stations and provide chairs for senior citizens. Volunteers will be deployed to assist PWDs and elderly persons.

The IMD reported a strong likelihood of heatwave episodes enduring for 10 to 20 days, contrasting with the usual span of 4 to 8 days, over the next three months. Odisha is going to poll in four phases between May 13 and June 1.

On challenges to conduct election left wing extremism affected regions, Mr. Dhal said overall naxal situation in Odisha has improved in 2024 in comparison to 2019.

“Despite this, some of the southern district continued to affected by left wing extremisms. District collectors and superintendents of police have made foolproof arrangement for meet challenges on law and order front. As per the recent feedback from police, the most challenging areas affected LWE is Kandhamal, Boudh and Kalahandi,” he said.

“We are, however, expecting voting percentage to be higher in this election in areas affected by LWEs,” said Mr. Dhal.

The CEO office has increased number of poling stations and rationalised their establishment to bring down distance being covered by voters.

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