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Code of conduct comes into force in Himachal as EC announces 9 Nov as polling date

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Date of HP Assembly Election

On the Balloting Unit, below the name of the last candidate, there will now be a button for NOTA option so that electors who do not want to vote for any of the candidates can exercise their option by pressing the button against NOTA.

New Delhi: The Election Commission of India has finally announced the date for the Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly elections. The Hill state will go for polls on November 9, 2017. With this announcement, the model code of conduct has also come into force.

However, the Commission did not declare the polling date for the state of Gujrat.

Himachal has total 68 assembly constituencies. Out if total, 17 seats are reserved for the Scheduled Castes and 3 for the Scheduled Tribes.

This election, Himachal has 7479 polling stations as compared to 7252 in 2012 – an increase of 3.13 percent.

As per the draft rolls, the total numbers of electors in the states is 905677 (49.05 Lac).

The Commission has directed the State election machinery to ensure time-bound completion of Special Summary Revision of Electoral Rolls.

As a special initiative, Second Special Summary Revision 2017 was organized in Himachal from July 1 to September 15, 2017, during which 1.25 Lac voters name were added to the electoral rolls and 47,214 were deleted through form-7.

Through a special drive to enroll left out voters organized from 16th -30th September 2017, total 74885 new voters were added. Out of this total, 20437 new voters belong to 18-19 year age group.

Photo percentage in Photo Electoral Rolls of this State is 100%.

Secrecy of Voting- Increase in Height of Standardized Voting Compartment

In order to maintain the secrecy of the vote, the Commission has issued revised instructions to increase the height of the Voting Compartments to 30 inches.

Model Code of Conduct

All the provisions of the Model Code will apply to the whole of Himachal Pradesh and will be applicable to all candidates, political parties and, the State Government of Himachal Pradesh. The Model Code of Conduct will also be applicable to the Union Government insofar as announcements/policy decisions pertaining to/for this State is concerned.

The Commission has also issued instructions for swift, effective and stringent action for enforcement of Model Code of Conduct during the first 72 hours of the announcement of the election schedule and also for maintaining extra vigilance and strict enforcement action in the Last 72 hours prior to the close of polls.

All critical events will be video-graphed. District Election Officers will arrange a sufficient number of video and digital cameras and camera teams for the purpose.

All events like filing of nomination papers and scrutiny thereof, allotment of symbols, First Level Checking, preparations and storage of Electronic Voting Machines, important public meetings, processions etc. during election campaign, process of dispatching of postal ballot papers, polling process in identified vulnerable polling stations, storage of polled EVMs and VVPATs, counting of votes etc. will be videographed .

CCTVs will be installed at important Border Check Posts and Static Check Points for effective monitoring and surveillance.

The Commission has directed that Webcasting, CCTV coverage, Videography and Digital cameras will also be deployed inside critical polling booths and polling booths in vulnerable areas to closely monitor the proceedings on the poll day.

All-Women Managed Polling Stations

For greater participation of women in the electoral process, the Commission has also directed to set up ‘All- Women Managed Polling Stations’ in two polling stations for each Assembly Constituency. The entire polling staff, including the police and security personnel, will comprise of women.

Total 136 Women managed Polling Stations will be setup for the entire Himachal for the first time.

Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPATs)

Along with use of electronic voting machine, Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPATs) will be used
All the EVMs and VVATs stored in the district storage centre will be randomized by the District Election Officer (DEO) in the presence of the representatives of the recognized political parties for Assembly Constituency-wise allocation.

The second randomization of EVMs and VVPATs will be done at RO level before preparation of EVMs and VVPATs for polling station-wise allocation. This is done in the presence of Observer contesting candidates/their agents.

None Of The Above (NOTA)

This time there will be a NOTA button in EVMs and VVPATs in compliance with Supreme Court’s judgment.

On the Balloting Unit, below the name of the last candidate, there will now be a button for NOTA option so that electors who do not want to vote for any of the candidates can exercise their option by pressing the button against NOTA.

Ceiling of Election Expenses For Candidates

As per the revised ceilings, the maximum limit of election expenses for the Assembly Constituencies is Rs. 28 lakh per candidate for Himachal. All candidates are required to furnish their accounts of expenditure within 30 days of the declaration of results.

The Commission has also decided to appoint an adequate number of Expenditure Observers and Assistant Expenditure Observers who will exclusively monitor the election expenditure of the contesting candidates.

Paid News

To deal with the menace of ‘Paid News’, a mechanism has been laid out with three-tier Media Certification and Monitoring Committees (MCMCs) at District, State, and ECI level. The revised comprehensive instructions on ‘Paid News’ are available on the Commission’s website.

Necessary instructions have been issued to the CEO of Himachal to ensure briefing of political parties and Media in the districts about ‘Paid News’ and the mechanism to check ‘Paid News’.

Monitoring of Electronic and Social Media

Various Social Media platforms will also remain under the close and stringent vigil of the Commission for any content aimed at vitiating the electoral process or designed to disturb peace, tranquility, social harmony and public order.

For identification of the voters at the polling booths, electors have been provided with EPIC.

In order to ensure that no voter is deprived of his/her franchise, if his/her name figures in the Electoral Rolls, separate instructions will be issued to allow additional documents for identification of voters if needed. Now voters can also use the Adhaar Card as an additional document for establishing the identity of voters at the Polling Stations.

Photo Voter Slips

The Commission has said it has made substantial improvements in the size, design, and format of the Photo Voter Slip to enhance effectiveness in voter identification, awareness and guidance by increasing the size of the image.

The Commission has directed the Booth Level Officers to distribute the Photo Voter Slips the voter slip to the elector concerned only and not to any other person.

Voter Guide Brochure

Along with Photo Voter Slips, the voters will also be provided with a Voter Guide Brochure (in local languages). It will contain all the information about the date and time of polls, contact details of the BLOs, important websites, helpline numbers, documents required for identification at the polling station besides other important information including the Do’s and Dont’s for voters at the polling station.

Minimum Facilities (AMF) at Polling Stations

The Commission has upgraded the status of facilities at the Polling Stations from the earlier concept of Basic Minimum Facilities (BMF) to Assured Minimum Facilities (AMF).

The Chief Electoral Officers have been instructed to ensure that every Polling Station is equipped with Assured Minimum Facilities (AMF) like drinking water, shed, toilet, and ramp for the physically challenged voters, a standard voting compartment etc. for the convenience and facilitation of voters.

All polling stations should be located at ground floor with the provision of sturdy ramps for the convenience of differently-abled electors with wheel-chairs.

The Commission has directed that all Persons With Disabilities (PwDs) in an Assembly Constituency are identified and tagged to their respective Polling Stations and necessary disability-specific arrangements made for their smooth and convenient voting experience on the poll day.

Identified PWDs will be assisted by volunteers appointed by RO/DEO. Differently-abled electors will be given priority for entering polling booths. The parking space will be arranged close to the entrance of polling premise and special care will be provided to electors with speech and hearing impairment.

Voter Assistance Booths (VAB)

Voter Assistance Booths will be set up for every polling station location, having a team of BLO/officials with the objective of facilitating the voter to

The mock poll was conducted in EVMs and VVPATs during the First Level Checking in the presence of the representative of Political Parties. The mock poll will also be conducted in the presence of candidates/their agents during the commissioning of EVMs and VVPATs.

Introduction of additional facility of E-Filing of Candidate Affidavits

The Commission has provided an additional facility for online submission (e-filing) of their Affidavit. The candidate can go online to ECI website (eci.nic.in) and can submit their affidavit online through any of the services of NIC or NSDL.

Candidate needs to take print out of the affidavit submitted online and then get it notarized and submit it to Returning officer (RO).

Law and Order, Security Arrangements, and Deployment of Forces

Based on the assessment of the ground situation, Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and State Armed Police (SAP) drawn from other States will be deployed during these elections.

Election Expenditure Monitoring

Comprehensive instructions for the purpose of effective monitoring of the election expenditure of the candidates have been issued, which include the formation of Flying Squads (FS), Static Surveillance Teams (SST), Video Surveillance Teams (VST), the involvement of Investigation Directorates of Income Tax Deptt. etc.

The State Excise Departments and police authorities have been asked to monitor production, distribution, sale, and storage of liquor and other intoxicants (including narcotics) during the election process. The functioning and operations of the Flying Squads/Mobile Teams will be closely monitored using GPS Tracking.

For greater transparency and for ease of monitoring of Election Expenses, Candidates would be required to open a separate bank account and incur their election expenses from that very account.

New initiatives taken by the Commission to strengthen the Expenditure Monitoring mechanism

For the purpose of maintaining purity of elections, the Election Commission of India has issued the Standard Operating Procedure for Flying Squads and Static Surveillance Teams, constituted for keeping vigil over excessive campaign expenses, distribution of items of bribe in cash or in kind, movement of illegal arms, ammunition, liquor, or antisocial elements etc. in the constituency during election process.

Filing of part statement of Election Expenditure by Political parties in 30 days

The political parties will be required to file a part expenditure statement in respect of the lump sum payments made to the candidate, within 30 days after the declaration of results.

The recognized political parties will have to submit their accounts of election expenses with the Election Commission of India and the unrecognized political parties with the Chief Electoral Officer of the concerned State.

Final Accounts By Political Parties

All Political Parties sponsoring candidates for the Legislative Assembly elections are required to maintain day-to-day accounts of all election campaign expenses and submit the accounts to the Commission within 75 days of the completion of such elections. Such accounts will be uploaded on the website of the Commission for public viewing.

The Commission expects the media to play a positive, pro-active and constructive role in supplementing and facilitating the efforts towards the delivery of free, fair, transparent, participative, peaceful and credible elections.

Use of Social Media

The Commission has decided to enhance its interaction and involvement with all the stakeholders in the electoral processes by inducting the use of social media at the State as well as the District level.

Necessary instructions in this regards have been issued to Chief Electoral Officers of all States/UTs. The CEO and DEOs are expected to activate their official accounts on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube for establishing a more interactive system.

Social Media Cells at CEO and DEO offices will professionally handle the Social Media and disseminate all the necessary information regarding voters’ awareness, pre-certification, MCC, etc.
Complaints received on this platform would be promptly responded to.

A single window system for giving election-related permissions/clearances within 24 hours has been created. In this system, Candidates and Political Parties can apply for permissions for Meetings, Rallies, vehicles, temporary election office, loudspeakers etc at a single location.

Brail EPIC and Brail Photo Voter Slips

To have inclusive elections, special provisions have been made for all differently abled electors. Brail EPIC and Brail Photo Voter Slips would be issued to all visually challenged electors. Queueless voting at all Polling Stations would be ensured for all differently abled electors.

Misc News/Press Release

Video: Fire Wreaks Havoc at Solan Mall Road

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Solan Fire Break out 2021

Solan-A fire broke out at the congested Solan Mall Road today evening, which engulfed about three shops including a medical store and garment and shoe shops. According to the initial report received from the district administration, the fire reportedly started from a medical store, which was closed.

People first noticed smoke rising from inside the building and informed the owner of the shop and fire services. By the time, fire tenders reached the spot, the fire had spread considerably to a large part of the multi-story building. Sounds of explosions from inside the medical store caused a panic among the adjoining shopping mall and people present on the scene. These sounds of explosions reportedly came from bottles of sanitisers and other flammables products kept inside the medical store.

No loss of life was reported.

According to a report, two fire hydrants installed at the Solan Mall Road for such emergency situation did not work, which led to delay in extinguishing the fire. Meanwhile, property worth lakhs in three to four shops turned to ash. It took over two hours to extinguish the fire with the help of locals. 

The Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), Ajay Kumar, had arrived at the spot. The exact losses were yet to be assessed. It’s pertinent to mention that the Solan Mall is a congested place with a large number of shops and the fire could have easily turned into a bigger disaster if it were not controlled. 

The cause of the fire is believed to be a short-circuit. But it would be possible to cite the exact cause only after an inquiry, if conducted. More information was awaited.

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Environment

Himachal First State to Complete Assessment of Snow Leopard and its Wild Prey

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Snow Leopard Population Assessment in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla-The assessment of snow leopard population in Himachal Pradesh has been completed by the state wildlife wing in collaboration with Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) Bangalore following the protocol aligning with the SPAI (Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India) protocols of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. Himachal Pradesh has become the first state to complete assessment of snow leopard and its wild prey.

The state has an estimated population of up to 73 snow leopards.

It is the first scientifically robust estimate of snow leopards and its prey for the State. Since snow leopard is the state animal, the study assumes great significance for Himachal Pradesh.
The exercise revealed that snow leopard density ranged from 0.08 to 0.37 individuals per 100 sq.km., with the trans-Himalayan regions of Spiti, Pin valley and upper Kinnaur recording the highest densities, both of the predator and its prey, mainly ibex and blue sheep.

This study covered the entire potential snow leopard habitat of Himachal Pradesh: an area of 26,112 sq.km., utilising a stratified sampling design. Camera trapping surveys were conducted at 10 sites to representatively sample all the strata i.e. high, low and unknown. The camera trap deployment over the mountainous terrains was led by a team of eight local youth of Kibber village and more than 70 frontline staff of HPFD were trained in this technique as part of the project. Snow leopards were detected at all the 10 sites (Bhaga, Chandra, Bharmour, Kullu, Miyar, Pin, Baspa, Tabo, Hangrang & Spiti) suggesting that snow leopards are found in the entire snow leopard habitat in Himachal Pradesh either as resident individuals of a population or as dispersing individuals navigating through these connecting habitats.

Another revelation from the study is that a bulk of snow leopard occurrence is outside protected areas, reiterating the fact that local communities are the strongest allies for conservation in snow leopard landscapes.

The NCF and wildlife wing collaborated in the effort and it took three years to complete the assessment. MoEFCC had launched the First National Protocol on Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India, on the occasion of International Snow Leopard Day. You can read the complete protocol here.

Snow leopard is the icon of high mountains of Asia. In India, they inhabit the higher Himalayan and TransHimalayan landscape in an altitudinal range between approximately 3,000 m to 5,400 m above MSL, spanning c. 100,000 km2 in the five states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. This area contributes to about 5% of the global snow leopard range.

Snow leopards occur over a vast, relatively remote and difficult to access mountainous area. Together with their elusive nature, this makes a complete population census of snow leopards an unfeasible goal. Even their distribution remains unclear. For example, recent surveys show that they do not occur in 25 % of the area that was thought to be their range in the state of Himachal Pradesh Their density is expected to be variable in space, dependent on several factors such as habitat suitability, prey availability, disturbance and connectivity. Variation in density across space also poses the risk of biased sampling, and, indeed, most of the snow leopard population assessments conducted so far across the world are biased towards the best habitats.

Feature Photo: Pexels/Charles Miller

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Misc News/Press Release

Himachal Records 81% Turnout in 3rd Phase of PRI Polls, Congress Makes a Come Back in Theog MC after 20 Years

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third phase of Panchayat elections in himachal pradesh

Shimla-The third phase of elections to Panchayati Raj Institutes in Himachal Pradesh recorded around 81 percent polling on January 21, 2021. The elections were held in 1137 Gram Panchayats in this phase. The highest 94 percent polling was registered in Lodhi Majra Panchayat of Nalagarh development block in Solan district. This information was released by a spokesperson of HP Election Commission

District-wise, Sirmaur recorded 85% turnout, followed by Solan (85%) Kullu (84%),Chamba (82.8%), Mandi (82.7%), Una (81.1%), Shimla (82%),Una (81%), Bilaspur (80.3%), Hamirpur (78.1%), Kangra (78%), and Kinnaur (70%).

 Further, 48 COVID-19 patients and persons in isolation also cast their votes.

The Spokesperson said that the poll was held peacefully and there was no report of any untoward incident in the state.

Counting of votes for Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti will be held on January 22, 2021, at block headquarters.

Congress made a come back to Theog Municipal Council after 20 years. While Vivek Thapar was elected as the Chairman of the MC, Reen Roy was elected as the Vice-Chairman. Congress has already registered wins in Rohru and Rampur MCs and Chopal, Kotkhai and Sunni Nagar panchayats.

Theog MC Polls 2021

Congress After Registering Victory in Theog MC Elections

The HPCC chief Kuldeep Singh Rathore, while speaking to media persons yesterday, said that of the total seven Wards of the Theog MC, Congress has claimed victory on four wards while remaining three Wards went to independent candidates. Congress alleged that BJP had left no stone unturned to pressurize, lure, and threaten elected members to gain their support. 

Rathore mocked at the defeat of BJP MP’s bother in Mandi district. Further, the candidate in Ghumarwin of Bilaspur – home district of BJP Chief Jagat Prakash Nadda-  had also faced defeat, Rathore said. BJP candidate in Sujanpur – home to Union Minister for State for Finance and Corporate Affairs Anurag Thakur-could also not register a victory and lost, he said.

Congress also registered a victory in elections to Parwanoo MC. Kuldeep Singh Rathore, said that winning candidate Nisha Sharma joined Congress yesterday. She had won twice from the same Ward on BJP ticket. This time, she was denied ticket and fought the elections as an independent candidate. 

Parwanoo Counciloor Nisha sharma

Nisha Sharma Joins Congress

Rathore alleged that the government has been trying to threaten Nisha by registering a fake case of illegal construction. Similarly, husband of Chandrawati – another Congress councilor in Parwanoo- who runs a depot was fined wrongfully yesterday, Rathore alleged.   

While BJP has been making claims of victory on the majority of seats, Congress had been terming it as a bluff.  Also, it had been alleging BJP of misusing government machinery. Independent candidates are being bought and allurements are being given to winning Congress candidates, Rathore alleged.  

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