The social distancing norms to curb the COVID-19 infection went for a toss during the counting of votes for the Uttar Pradesh Panchayat Elections. There was chaos and a huge crowd outside counting rooms on Sunday.
While long queues and the cramped rooms were seen at several counting centres, Hathras witnessed massive crowd blatantly flouting COVID-19 norms.
Counting of votes for Uttar Pradesh’s panchayats is taking place in a whopping 829 centres across the state, amid country's battle against the second COVID-19 wave.
The counting of votes for the panchayat polls in Uttar Pradesh began on Sunday morning. "The counting of votes will continue till all the ballots are counted. The entire process may take two days," a senior SEC official told PTI.
The State Election Commission (SEC) had said the candidates and their agents will be allowed to enter the counting centres only if they have tested negative for COVID-19 in the 48 hours prior to the commencement of the counting process or taken both doses of the vaccine.
The Supreme Court on Saturday had refused to stay the counting process. In a special urgent hearing on a holiday (Saturday), a bench of Justice A M Khanwilkar and Justice Hrishikesh Roy passed the order after taking note of several notifications and assurances of the SEC that the COVID-19 protocols will be followed at all the 829 counting centres.
The court directed that there will be a strict curfew in the entire state till Tuesday morning and no victory rallies will be permitted.
It also asked the SEC to fix the responsibility for observance of COVID-19 protocols at the counting centres on gazetted officers.
The bench directed the poll panel to preserve the CCTV footage of the counting centres till the Allahabad High Court concludes its hearings on the related petitions before it.
It also ordered that the government officials, candidates and their agents will have to produce RT-PCR test reports to show that they are COVID-19 negative before entering the counting centres.
The SEC said at every counting centre, a health desk will be established, where a doctor will be present with medicines. Those showing symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cold and cough will not be allowed at the counting centres.
Everyone entering the counting centre has to undergo thermal scanning, the SEC said.
It categorically stated that there will be a complete ban on victory processions.
Voting for the panchayat polls in Uttar Pradesh ended on April 29 with a 75-per cent voter turnout in the fourth and final phase.
Lakhs of candidates were in the fray for over 7.32 lakh seats in the gram panchayat wards, 58,176 in the gram panchayats, 75,852 in the kshetra panchayats and 3,050 in the zila panchayats in the statewide elections held over four phases. A total of 3.19 lakh candidates were elected unopposed, the SEC had said.
(With inputs from Agencies)