Chief Election Commissioner of India and chairperson A-WEB Sunil Arora spoke about the tough predicament faced by Election Management Bodies across the world: Whether and how to hold scheduled elections in a state of public health emergency such as Covid-19.
The CEC said the commission would take a decision on Bihar elections within the next two to three days after visiting the state.
Arora said this after inaugurating an international webinar on the theme ''Issues, Challenges and Protocols for Conducting Elections during COVID-19 : Sharing Country Experiences" on completion of one year of Chairmanship of the Association of World Election Bodies (A-WEB). It was hosted by the Election Commission of India on Monday.
According to ECI's press note, it was an occasion for democracies world over to come together to share experiences of conducting elections during COVID-19.
"On September 3, 2019, India had taken over as chair of A-WEB for 2019-2021 term during the 4th General Assembly of A-WEB held at Bengaluru.
"The contextual framework of every country was different, the extent and trajectory of the disease varied and so did the capacity of each country to respond to the novel corona virus and its catastrophic impact," said Arora.
He mentioned countries such as South Korea, Australia, Malawi, Taiwan, Mongolia and many others who went ahead with scheduled elections even as they put in place the enormous arrangements required to ensure the health and safety of people while conducting election.
"Elections in India pose formidable challenges on account of large electorate, geographical and linguistic diversity and differing climatic conditions. Explaining in detail the scale of the upcoming elections to the Legislative Assembly of Bihar, he mentioned that the total number of electors is 729 million," said Arora.
Explaining the impact of COVID-19 on the election, Arora highlighted how COVID-19 exigencies and social distancing measures necessitated a revisit ofECI's extant instructions.
The maximum number of electors at a polling station was reduced from 1500 to 1000, and consequently, the number of polling stations jumped by 40 per cent, from 65,000 to 100,000. These changes have huge logistics and manpower implications.
Arora mentioned the specific and detailed guidelines that have been drawn up on conducting election during the time of COVID-19. He also mentioned the successful conduct of elections to 18 seats of the Rajya Sabha in the month of June 2020.