Health expert calls holding elections during pandemic a ‘blunder’

With campaigning for the November 3 byelections in the State nearing closure, more and more COVID-19 protocol violations are visible in the poll-bound constituencies of R.R. Nagar in Bengaluru Urban and Sira in Tumakuru district.

The violations have been so rampant that C.N. Manjunath, director of Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, who is the nodal officer for labs and testing in the State’s COVID-19 task force, said holding elections during this pandemic was a blunder. “We do not know if the Election Commission consulted experts and the Indian Council of Medical Research before declaring the polls,” he said.

“Crowding cannot be avoided during elections. With door-to-door campaigning, there are chances of the virus spreading from house to house. Moreover, air pollution and the cold season will only add to the spread,” he said. Asserting that gram panchayat elections should not be held now, Dr. Manjunath said, “If the local body polls are held, infections will spread and can contribute to a second wave in the State. We are only talking about a post-festival surge, but what about a post-election surge?”

10 cases so far

The office of the Chief Electoral Officer has booked 10 cases so far for COVID-19 protocol violation in these constituencies. Sources said the Election Commission was helpless as campaigning cannot be avoided during elections. “The onus is on people to safeguard themselves,” a source said.

While two cases have been booked in R.R. Nagar (one each against the BJP and the Congress), eight cases have been booked in Sira. While two are against the JD(S), three are against BJP and one against the Congress. The remaining two cases are against individuals participating in the rallies.

According to officials, all these cases are over violation of social distancing norms during campaign meetings and processions. The case against the Congress in R.R. Nagar is for not following COVID-19 protocols during a meeting in a closed space.

Sanjeev Kumar, Chief Electoral Officer, said these cases have been booked under the Disaster Management Act and are as serious as poll code violation cases. The punishment includes both penalty and conviction, he said. “It is a serious criminal offence if people are endangering the lives of others by not following the COVID-19 norms.”

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 2:52:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/health-expert-calls-holding-elections-during-pandemic-a-blunder/article32986725.ece

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