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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.

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Covid Restrictions in Himachal Extended Till Jan 31st, State Reports 11 Deaths in 24 Hours

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Covid restrictions in himachal pradesh 2022

Shimla-Covid-19 restrictions in Himachal Pradesh has been extended till January 31, 2022. Currently, the state is witnessing a sharp spike in daily Covid-19 cases and deaths. Today, despite a low sampling of 7896, the State reported 1766 new cases and 11 Covid-related deaths. During the last eight days,  the State has recorded over 50 deaths due to Covid-19.

The deceased included a 2-year-old female child too. Shimla district reported the highest five deaths. The Covid death toll in the state had risen to 3927 according to the latest update. But the State did not impose any new restrictions, like on the entry of visitors and curtailing capacity of public transport. Further, during the last 24 hours, Shimla, Solan, and Kangra districts reported more than 250 cases each. 

Covid restrictions in himachal pradesh extended

 A notification in this regard was issued by the Government of Himachal Pradesh (Revenue Department – Disaster Management Cell) on Monday. 

“Taking note of the present situation of Covid-19 in the State, the restrictions announced on January 5th, 8th, 9th, and 13th will continue to remain in effect till 6 am of 31st January 2022,” the notification said.

Programs scheduled on the occasion of Himachal Pradesh Statehood Day ( 25th January) and Republic Day (26th January) would be held on the condition of 50% capacity of indoor/outdoor spaces.

The educational institutes, including ITI, polytechnic colleges, and coaching institutes, would remain closed. Online classes, however, would continue in schools.

With the ongoing surge in daily cases and deaths, more restrictions could be in stock.

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Mandi Hooch Case: Political Storm Over Arrest and Expulsion of Hamirpur Congress Leader

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Hamipur district congress neeraj thakur

Mandi-On Sunday, the Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee expelled General Secretary of the Hamirpur District Congress Committee following his arrest from Chandigarh in alleged connection with the Mandi hooch case.

It’s pertinent to mention that last week seven persons had lost their lives in two days and eight others are still hospitalized due to consumption of spurious liquor in Salapar area of Sundernagar Tehsil, Mandi district. Following this tragedy, a police SIT was formed, various places were raided, seizures of incriminating materials were made, several persons were arrested. So far, the police have arrested 13 persons in this connection and more arrests could be made as the SIT unfolds layers of people involved.

Neeraj Thakur, who was said to have risen to a political leader from a salesman at a liquor shop, had created an empire for himself allegedly from the illicit trade of spurious liquor. The worth of his properties and assets is being assessed, but the initial reports suggested his assets were disproportionate to his income. Now every political leader he was in contact with is under the scanner of the police SIT.

Also Read: Mandi Hooch Case: HP Police Claim Bursting Large-Scale Illicit Liquor Trade, Nabs Kingpin

According to Superintendent of Police, Mandi, Shalini Agnihotri, on Sunday, police detained Praveen Thakur, who is a resident of Hamirpur, two persons, identified as Sunny and Pushpender of Uttar Pradesh, AK Tripathi of Jammu and Kashmir, and Sagar Saini of Delhi. The police have claimed that it has also apprehended the kingpin.

The state Congress chief and the opposition leader Mukesh Agnihotri who had been issuing statements holding the BJP government responsible for the Mandi hooch tragedy is on backfoot following the expulsion of Neeraj. At the same time, the failure of the state Excise and Taxation Department in checking this flourishing illicit trade of spurious liquor right under its nose is also evident.

State BJP general secretary Trilok Jamwal, State BJP spokesperson Baldev Tomar and co-media-in-charge Karan Nadda on Sunday issued statements referring to the expulsion of Neeraj as evidence that the Congress leaders were involved in, as well as, patron of liquor mafia in the State.

Further, with elections to the Shimla Municipal Corporation and elections to the state Assembly later this year, this issue has turned into a political storm.  

According to the SIT investigation, the illicit liquor factory was operating in Hamirpur District and raw materials were procured from both within and outside the State. The police said that Gaurav Manhas appears to be the kingpin of the illegal trade. Gaurav, with the assistance of Praveen, Pushpender and Sunny from UP, was running this illegal bottling plant at Hamirpur building owned by Praveen.

In addition, the DGP informed, Manu and Gagan were his partners in the bottling plant busted under the jurisdiction of Police Station Nalagarh. Gaurav has a strong network of distributors and supply chains for raw materials and finished liquor.

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Mandi Hooch Case: HP Police Claim Bursting Large-Scale Illicit Liquor Trade, Nabs Kingpin

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mandi liquor hooch case

Mandi-Mandi hooch case has brought shocking facts to light. An organized illicit liquor trade flourished in a village of Hamirpur district right under the nose of the Excise and Taxation Department and the police. It wasn’t a minor business but had inter-state links too. Named ‘Rainbow Café, a factory was operating in a building in a village of the district.

According to the initial police investigation, it was believed the deaths were caused by either improper mixing of the ingredients, or because a part of the spirit procured for the production of liquor may be impure and contained methyl alcohol instead of ethyl alcohol.

It raises another crucial question; can such an organized, large scale illicit business flourish without political patronage? 

Shaken by the death of seven persons due to consumption of spurious liquor in the Salapar area of Sundernagar Tehsil, the State Police formed a Special Investigating Team to investigate the case. According to the police, as the scope of the investigation had expanded, the state police included Arjit Sen (SP Una), Mohit Chawla (SP Baddi), Arvind Digvijay Negi, ASP Kangra and Yogesh Rolta (SDPO Parwanoo) in the SIT.

The police raided different places in different districts, collected evidence and seized a large amount of incriminating material.

The police had nabbed four persons in this connection. On Saturday, the Director-General of Police, Sanjay Kundu, held a press conference and claimed to have busted the illicit liquor business by arresting the prime suspect who was identified as Narender alias Kalu – a resident of village Maloh in the district. He was on the run following the deaths.

During the questioning, Kalu revealed that the main supplier of this illicit liquor consignment was one Gaurav Manhas alias Goru of Palampur. A police team traced his location and apprehended him from a hotel in Zirkpur on Friday.

On being questioned by the SIT, it was found that Goru belonged to the Panchrukhi area of Kangra. According to the police investigation, Goru was running an illicit bottling unit at Hamirpur in collusion with Praveen Thakur. It was also revealed that the raw material for production and packaging was received from other persons belonging to different states.

One Sagar Saini, who belonged to Delhi, supplied the spirit drums and AK Tripathi, who hailed from Samba, Jammu and Kashmir, provided the formula, the police said.

Further, it was revealed that the bottling unit in Hamirpur was run by two persons who belonged to Uttar Pradesh. The duo was responsible for mixing ingredients for the manufacture of liquor. Empty bottles were procured from ‘kabaddi’ in Hamirpur and bottles, caps, boxes and cartons were supplied from Parwanoo. VRV Santra stickers were created by a graphic designer.

Following Seizures Were Made from Hamirpur

1. More than 6000 bottles filled with illicit liquor labelled as “VRV Fools Pvt. Ltd.”,
2. five plastic tanks (300 Its each),
3. seven boxes containing bottle caps marked “VRV foods Ltd.”,
4. nine plastic drums (50. Its each),
5. one carton containing 136 strips of labels marked “Santra, VRV Fools Pvt. Ltd.”
6. 124 sheets containing more than 2500 holograms,
7. 18 plastic tag rolls marked VRV Foods,
8. one carton containing four bottles (500 ml each)
9. one jerry cans (5 Its) containing flavour,
10. three aluminium katchhhi, two bottle sealing machines,
11. one plastic jerry can filled with coloring material for the illicit liquor,
12. 56 plastic bags filled with more than 2500 empty bottles,
13. more than 2000 empty cartons marked “VRV Foods Ltd”,
14. one bottle filling machine,
15. seven stamps marked with impression of Batch No. 61, 62 and 361; 33 distilled water plastic containers (20 Its each)

These items were seized from the illegal premises busted at Panyala village, Hamirpur. The premises was marked as “Rainbow Café”.

At the instance accused Goru, another bottling plant was located under Station Nalagarh which was subsequently raided by police in Baddi.

The suppliers of holograms, labels, cartons, used bottles, spirit, bottles caps and material for the illicit production have been identified and apprehended during searches in the neighbouring districts Kangra, Solan, Hamirpur.

According to the SIT investigation, the illicit liquor factory was operating in Hamirpur District and raw materials were procured from both within and outside the State. The police said that Gaurav Manhas appears to be the kingpin of the illegal trade. Gaurav, with the assistance of Praveen, Pushpender and Sunny from UP, was running this illegal bottling plant at Hamirpur building owned by Praveen.

In addition, the DGP informed, Manu and Gagan were his partners in the bottling plant busted under the jurisdiction of Police Station Nalagarh. Gaurav has a strong network of distributors and supply chains for raw materials and finished liquor. The racket included the following major partners:

1. Gaurav Manhas alias Goru (kingpin),
2. Praveen (owner of the building used as an illegal bottling plant)
3. Pushpender and Sunny (workers in the plant)
4. Manu and Gagan (prime suspects in Nalagarh case)

The DGP said that further investigation is underway and a clearer picture will emerge after the collection of evidence and interrogation of all accused.

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