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The by-elections on 28 assembly constituencies in the state will expose 6.77 lakh senior citizens to coronavirus. Facility for postal ballot has been given only to voters above 80 years of age.

Come November 3 and 6.77 lakh voters between age group of 60-70 years will be jostling to vote in 28 assembly constituencies. The advisory issued by Social Justice and Empowerment Department, Union government, on instructions of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare clearly mentions that senior citizens who are aged above 60 years and specially those with medical conditions are susceptible to infections during Covid times.

The guidelines issued by Election Commission have given facility of postal ballot to voters above 80 years only and not to people between 60 to 79 years of age. This discrepancy might affect the voting pattern.

“Definition of senior citizens decided by Election Commission is erroneous. According to WHO and ICMR, people above 60 years of age are considered senior citizens. How can Election Commission leave this vulnerable lot on God’s mercy?” Swasthya Adhikar Manch co-convener Amulya Nidhi said.

This factor will impact voting percentage. Family members of senior citizens will not allow them to go out during pandemic, he added. One of the main objectives of Election Commission is to increase voting percentage but this step will have an adverse impact, said Amulya Nidhi.

‘It is duty of Election Commission to ensure safety of every voter from Covid-19 during elections. An alternative way to hold elections during pandemic should have been explored,” said lawyer and activist Ashish Pratap Singh on whose public interest litigation, High Court stopped election rallies in nine districts besides ordering FIR against union minister Tomar and former CM Nath.

According to Election Commission, there are 71,332 voters in 28 assembly constituencies aged above 80 years who are eligible for postal ballot facility. Suvasra assembly has the highest numbers of voters in this category with 4,435 voters above 80 years while Anuppur with 1,363 voters has lowest number of such voters.

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Free Press Journal