Bihar polls amid Covid-19: An election of many firsts

From deep sanitisation of nearly 41,000 polling stations to collection of bio-medical waste (BMW), the Bihar assembly polls, the second phase and largest of which was held on Tuesday, witnessed many firsts.

The sanitisation teams, comprising nearly 500 people for the three assembly segments in Sitamarhi, were armed with sanitisers, sodium hypochlorite and deep cleaning materials, clad in personal protective equipment (PPE).

They disinfected 1,189 polling stations ahead of the second phase of the Bihar elections which was held across 94 assembly constituencies. According to people familiar with the matter, the spraying equipment was sourced at panchayat-level and was the same as the equipment used to spray crops.

Other such teams were deployed across the state, however, their composition varied according to density of polling stations, people familiar with the matter said.

But this wasn’t the only team working for the first time this election. Bio-medical waste, discarded masks and gloves were collected by PPE-clad waste management teams. The first team started off in Baghalpur and made their way to their designated polling stations in earmarked vehicles.

Also read: ‘Won’t have any impact’ – Nitish after onions thrown at poll rally

In Patna, a team of eight set out to collect the waste and delivered it to the incinerator near the polling station as per the state’s protocol. In Aurangabad, 36 teams conducted the collection, while nearly 100 teams were working in Sitamarhi.

“Dustbins were kept at each polling station and waste left behind by people was collected and disposed to ensure safety and protection against Covid-19,” said a person familiar with the matter. “The Commission insisted on tracking the vehicles to ensure all waste is disposed off efficiently.”

Bihar’s Covid-19 numbers, however, are relatively low with a little over 6,500 active cases.

People familiar with the matter in Sitamarhi said that there were barely 10 Covid-19 positive patients across three assembly constituencies. The state is voting in three phases to elect its 243-member assembly with 94 assembly segments voting in the second phase.

The sanitisation team, headed by Abhilasha Sharma who is the returning officer in Sitamarhi, went from booth to booth to ensure the safety of the candidates and the polling staff.

“We managed to contain the pandemic two months ago but all precautions are being taken to make sure the guidelines laid down by the ECI and the Centre are followed,” Sharma told Hindustan Times. “It was heartening to see that there was a 2 percent jump in the voter turnout with even senior citizens venturing out to cast their votes.”

According to Sharma, 8,44,821 people will be casting their vote across 107 sectors where five people have been deputed to head a team to make sure of arrangements.

Sharma, who has already participated in two elections before this as a probationer in Darbhanga in 2015 and as the assistant returning officer ahead of Lok Sabha elections, sees a marked difference in the way the elections are being conducted during the pandemic.

“Elections are about gathering polling personnel and shepherding the machinery,” Sharma said. “But this time the preparations started three months before the usual election calendar. But everyone followed the Covid protocol strictly. ”

Source: Read Full Article