Adequate security arrangements would be provided to all candidates contesting the maiden District Development Council (DDC) polls in Jammu and Kashmir, State Election Commissioner K K Sharma said on Sunday. The statement comes a day after the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) objected to the treatment meted out to their nominees on the pretext of security.
The PAGD, an alliance of several mainstream parties seeking restoration of the erstwhile state’s special status which was revoked by the Centre last year, in a two-page letter to Sharma on Saturday said security is being used as a pretext to impede and customise democracy in the union territory. Written by PAGD president Farooq Abdullah, the letter came in the backdrop of allegations of major political parties in the valley, including the National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party, of not having a level-playing field for the elections.
The parties have accused the administration of locking up their candidates in accommodations at several places and not allowing them to campaign in the name of protecting them from threats. On Sunday, the State Election Commissioner (SEC), Sharma, chaired a meeting here to review law and order situation and security arrangements for the polls being held between November 28 to December 19. Adequate security shall be provided to all participating candidates whether party based or as independent including star campaigners besides all other facilities to ensure them comfortable campaigning in their respective areas, Sharma said in the meeting. He said 165 additional police force companies have been brought from outside Jammu and Kashmir to ensure adequate security arrangements are being made for all participating candidates.
The meeting was attended by Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Pandurang K Pole, and Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, Vijay Kumar. He said all the advanced arrangements are being put in place to ensure the conduct of transparent polls in a free and fair manner across the UT and the goal is to ensure safe elections are held in the UT. The SEC said there has been an enthusiastic atmosphere prevailing in Kashmir as encouraging nominations particularly, youngsters are coming forward to participate in these elections for the promotion of democracy. Sharma said the DDC polls are important and would ensure district-level leadership to the people and give a boost to the developmental process in all districts.
Besides, discussing law and order and security arrangements, heli-services to far-flung areas of Kupwara, Bandipora, and other districts, were also discussed during the meeting. Sharma said special arrangements of postal ballots are being made for various categories of people including senior citizens and COVID-19 positive people to ensure everyone who cannot turn up at the polling booth gets the opportunity to exercise their right to franchise. The SEC said a large number of candidates have filed their nominations as independent candidates. Sharma appealed to the people to follow all COVID-related standard operating procedures including use of face mask and hand sanitisers while participating in the election process.
He also asked concerned officers to ensure the availability of face masks and hand sanitisers at all polling booths during the voting process to ensure containment of the spread of COVID-19.