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Leap of Faith, Not Leap in Dark: EC Defends Holding Bihar Polls Amid Covid-19 Pandemic

CEC Sunil Arora addresses a press conference in Delhi on Friday.

CEC Sunil Arora addresses a press conference in Delhi on Friday.

Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora called it a "historic election" and the world's biggest in the time of the coronavirus.

The Bihar assembly elections will be held in three phases from October 28, chief election commissioner Sunil Arora announced on Friday. Voting in the first phase will be held on October 28, the second phase will be on November 3 and the third phase will be on November 7. The counting of votes will be on November 10.

Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora called it a "historic election" and said the polls are the world's biggest in the time of the coronavirus. He said that the voting phases have been reduced keeping in mind the pandemic. "Elections entail large scale deployment of security forces. We have tried to minimise their movement over long distance due to their fatigue as well as Covid-19," CEC Arora said.

When asked whether it was wise for crores of voters to come out and cast their ballots amid the pandemic, he said all precautions have been taken and described the decision to hold the election as “a leap of faith, not a leap in the dark”. He also cited the conduct of JEE, NEET exams in the state and across the country to affirm his point that "life must go on".

Arora said there will be extra precautions due to the virus. Among the steps taken are an an extra voting hour, separate voting for Covid patients, suspects and those in quarantine, and no physical contact during the campaign, he announced. Polling time has been increased to 7am to 6pm, he said, except in areas affected by left-wing extremism.

The EC said 7 lakh hand sanitisers, 46 lakh masks, 6 lakh PPE kits, 6.7 lakh face shields and 23 lakh pairs of hand gloves have been arranged for Bihar polls. Besides, postal ballot facility will be provided wherever required and requested.

Social distancing norms will need to be followed at public gatherings during the poll campaign. Arora further said anyone using social media for mischievous purposes, such as for flaring communal tension, during elections will have to face consequences, while hate speech will be also dealt with harshly by the Election Commission.


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