Baramulla, Apr 5 : Asserting that all the arrangements, including setting up of three-tire security, have been put in place to ensure free, fair and peaceful polling in Baramulla parliamentary constituency, Deputy Commissioner Ghulam Nabi Itoo urged people to come out without any fear to exercise their franchise on April 11.
Baramulla Parliamentary Constituency, consisting of Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipora, is the first among three seats in Kashmir, going to poll in the first phase.
“Besides state police, Central Paramilitary Forces (CPMF), troops from different Amy units would also be deployed to provide a secure and safe environment to voters,” Dr Itoo, who is Returning Officer (RO) of constituency, told UNI in an interview here.
There are ten candidates, including from Congress, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), National Conference (NC), Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and Peoples Conference (PC) in the fray, seeking mandate from the constituency, which was represented by Muzaffar Hussain Baigh of PDP in 2014. “We will press into service helicopters to airlift election material and officials to cut off areas if the roads were not put till April 9,” Mr Itoo said, adding massive snow clearance operation was going on to put through these roads.
“Snow clearance operations were going on a war footing to restore traffic to various cutoff far-flung and remote areas by Friday so that election officials and materials could be sent there. But, if the traffic was not restored to these areas, we will use helicopter services to airlift officials and election material to these areas,” he said.
Dozens of far flung and remote areas, including those near the Line of Control (LoC), remained cut off from their district headquarters from over three months due to accumulation of several feet of snow.
“All the arrangements are in place to ensure free, fair and peaceful polling in Baramulla parliamentary constituency. The polling stations have been designated and polling staff has also been notified and their training has also been completed,” he said.
“As many as 13,17,738 electors, including 636059 females, will exercise the right to vote to elect their representative from Baramulla Parliamentary Constituency, which is spread across 15 Assembly segments of three districts of north Kashmir including Kupwara, Baramulla and Bandipora,” he said.
He said for smooth conduct of elections, 1749 polling stations have been established at 1387 locations. “Baramulla District has 6,36,459 electors, including 3,08,512 females, 14 trans-genders and 3484 Persons with Disability (PwD). As many as 859 polling stations have been established at 692 locations,” he said.He said district Kupwara has 4,38,285 electors, including 2,13,016 females and 10 transgender. “These include 1896 PwD, marked voters, who will cast their votes at 578 polling stations set up at 484 locations,” he said.
“Bandipora district has 2,33,797 electors, including 1,12,555 females, 17 trans-genders and 2573 PwD. The authorities have set up 312 polling stations at 211 locations in the district,” he added.
Mr Itoo said assured minimum facilities, including availability of electricity, water and toilets, at the polling stations have been made available under the guideline of Election Commission of India (ECI). “Ramp facility has also been made available all polling stations for differently-abled persons and senior citizens so that they can exercise their franchise to vote,” he added.
Dr Itoo said that there are many polling stations close to Line of Control (LoC) which are within the firing range of the Pakistani Army. “Even though no ceasefire violations have been reported so far and situation on the ground is normal, permission has been taken from the Election Commission (EC) to shift these polling stations to safer place in the event of firing. We have already worked out a plan B if there was ceasefire violation on the polling day," he said.
He said three-tier security arrangements have also been put in place across parliamentary constituency and people will be able to vote in a secure and safe environment. “The requirement by Senior Superintendents of Police (SSPs) from all the areas of the constituency has been fulfilled. Super Sensitive, sensitive and vulnerable polling stations have been identified and the security deployment plan has been made accordingly,” he added.
Even though the Army is not directly involved in the Electoral process, he said that troops have been deployed at many areas in the constituency, particularly on the LoC, to foil any militant attacks and infiltration bid from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) to disrupt the democratic process. “Security forces play a very important role. And because J&K police and paramilitary forces do not fulfill all the requirements, help of Army has also been sought. So, accordingly, the requirement has been finalized with the Army officials,” Dr Itoo said.
Answering a question about Live Web Casting at polling booths, he said many polling stations have been designated, where CCTV cameras will be installed for Live Web Casting. However, he said command centre has been established at DC office Baramulla for providing internet connectivity to polling stations which are situated in remote areas of the constituency. “Most of the polling stations have internet connectivity, except 47 polling stations. But the police telecom department has installed towers in the DC office to give connectivity to those areas which have no internet connectivity. Places like Kamalkote, which otherwise have almost no connectivity, have been provided with alternate arrangements in consultation with Army and police,” he said.
Dr Itoo said that adequate security has been provided to all the candidates, who are in fray for the Baramulla parliamentary constituency, where polling will be held in the first phase on April 11. “As soon as candidates take form to contest election, security is provided to him. Once the nomination is accepted, candidates are given extra security under the guideline of EC,” he added.
Those in fray are Haji Farooq Ahamd Mir of Congress, Mohammad Maqbool War of BJP, Jahangir Khan of JKNPP, Abdul Qayoom Wani of JKPDP, Mohammad Akbar Lone of JKNC, Raja Aijaz Ali of JKPC while Javid Ahmad Qureshi, Syed Najeeb Shah Naqvi and Engineer Rashid are contesting as independents. In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the electoral strength of Baramulla Lok Sabha seat was 11,90,766 which has increased to 13,17,738 in 2019.