New Delhi: The Election Commission on Wednesday took a serious view of "utter violation" of social distancing norms during poll campaigning and leaders addressing public meetings without wearing masks in complete disregard of its guidelines.
In an advisory issued to presidents and general secretaries of all recognised national and state parties, the poll panel said chief electoral officers and the district machinery would be expected to invoke appropriate and relevant penal provisions against candidates concerned as well as organisers responsible for such violations.
Separate instructions for strict compliance of guidelines are being issued to chief electoral officers and state governments of poll-going states, it said.
"It has come to the notice of the Commission instances of such public meetings where large crowds assembled in utter violation of social distancing, and the political leaders and campaigners addressing the gatherings without wearing masks in complete disregard of the guidelines and instructions issued by the Election Commission," the poll panel said.
By not following the norms, the EC said, the political parties and candidates are not only flouting its guidelines "with impunity but exposing themselves as well as the public attending the rallies or meetings to the danger of infection during the pandemic".
As the most important stakeholders in the electoral process, the parties are duty-bound to observe the norms determined by the Commission for electioneering, it noted.
Non-compliance of instructions during the period of public interface will attract actions as per provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, besides invocation of the provisions of the Indian Penal Code and other legal provisions, the EC warned referring to its guidelines issued in August.
"The Commission has taken a serious view of the laxity on the part of political parties and candidates, on the ground, in terms of maintaining crowd discipline, and hereby reiterates and further advises them to demonstrate utmost vigil and care during electioneering," the advisory said.
Campaigning is on for Bihar Assembly polls as well as for bye-elections in other states.
Assembly polls in Bihar will be held in three phases on October 28, November 3 and November 7. Most of the assembly bypolls will be held on November 3. Bypolls to the Valmiki Nagar Lok Sabha seat in Bihar and some assembly seats in Manipur will take place on November 7.
The election commission's advisory comes a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people to follow all COVID guidelines, including wearing of masks, especially during the festive season.
With the onset of festival season, PM Modi on Tuesday made an impassioned appeal to people to follow COVID-19 guidelines, saying this is not the time to be careless as the virus is still around and even a small negligence can dampen the festive spirit.
The poll panel also referred to its October 9 advisory in which it had sought the cooperation of all political parties in following instructions related to COVID-19 at all stages, especially wherever public interface in physical form is involved.
The previous advisory had said the observance of preventive measures, including wearing masks, use of sanitiser and social distancing is a duty cast upon all the stakeholders in the larger interest of public health.
"As representatives of public, this onerous responsibility rests with the political parties to ensure that they not only cooperate with the district machinery in following the due norms of public health safety as prescribed but also instil a sense of discipline for civic behaviour in their cadre while doing ground management during campaign times," it had said.
The Election Commission said it seeks the fullest cooperation from parties so that its district election machinery ensures that all the preventive measures are adhered to by every participant, including organisers.
In August this year, the EC had issued broad guidelines for polls to be held amid the pandemic. According to the guidelines, a group of five people, including candidates but excluding security personnel, is allowed to take part in door-to-door campaigning.
For roadshows, the commission said convoys of vehicles should be broken after every five vehicles instead of 10 (excluding security vehicles). Public gatherings and rallies can be held subject to adherence to COVID-19 guidelines.
The district election officer should identify in advance dedicated grounds for public gatherings with clearly marked entry and exit points. In all such identified grounds, the district election officer should put markers in advance to ensure social distancing norms.
The district election officer and district superintendent of police should ensure that the number of attendees does not exceed the limit prescribed by the State Disaster Management Authority for public gatherings, the EC had said.
To ensure social distancing norms on polling days, the panel had said that there will be a maximum 1,000 electors instead of 1,500 in a polling station.
In view of this, the state is creating an additional around 34,000 polling stations which are 45 per cent more and will increase the total number of polling stations to around 1,06,000.
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Tokyo, Jul 31: Indian women's hockey team qualified for the Olympic quarterfinals after 41 years after it beat South Africa 4-3 and later defending champions Great Britain blanked Ireland 2-0 to ensure its passage into the knockout stage, here on Saturday.
India finished their group A league proceedings in fourth place with six points, riding on back-to-back wins over Ireland and South Africa and will now face pool B toppers Australia in the quarter-final on Monday.
The top four teams from each pool made it to the knockout stage.
Indian women team's best finish at the Olympics was in Moscow back in 1980 when they reached the semi-finals but ended fourth.
While Great Britain's win was required, no one can take away credit from Vandana Kataria, who scored a hat-trick in India's win in a pulsating morning clash against the South Africans.
Kataria (4th, 17th, 49th minutes) achieved a rare feat by becoming the first Indian woman hockey player to score a hat-trick in the Olympics.
Young Neha Goyal (32nd) was the other goal getter.
South Africa's goals came from the sticks of Tarryn Glasby (15th), skipper Erin Hunter (30th) and Marizen Marais (39th).
"Today's game was really tough, South Africa gave us a really good fight. They converted their chances in the circle. Defensively, we can be a lot better," skipper Rani said.
India's chief coach Sjoerd Marijne heaved a sigh of relief but was not happy with the number of goals his side conceded.
"We gave too many goals away, and I think we can score more goals, that is the main thing for today. We did what we had to do, we had to win this match, and we did," he said.
"Playing in these circumstances, you feel it, the humidity and I think it's more than 35 degrees on the pitch, it does not make it easy, he added.
Needing a win to stay alive in the competition, the Indians meant business and pressed hard on the South African defence from the start.
In doing so, India secured two penalty corners in the first two minutes of the match but drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur's poor execution continued in the tournament.
Still, it didn't take India long to open their account and in the fourth minute, Kataria gave her side the lead, tapping in from close range after being set up by Navneet Kaur's great run from the right flank.
India kept up the pressure and penetrated the South African circle many times without much success.
But seconds from the end of first quarter, a lapse in concentration from the defence cost India dearly as South Africa drew level through Tarryn Glasby, who deflected in a long shot from Taryn Mallett.
India had enough time to regain their lead through a penalty corner but wasted the opportunity.
Two minutes into the second quarter, Kataria restored India's lead when he deflected in Deep Grace Ekka's flick from their fourth penalty corner.
The Indians had three more chances to extend their lead in the second quarter but they couldn't do so.
The Rani Rampal-led side got two more penalty corners which they wasted, and then, Goyal's effort from open play was saved by the South Africa goalkeeper.
Just like in the first quarter, India gave away their lead seconds away from half time when Hunter found the net from her team's first penalty corner.
Two minutes after the change of ends, Goyal restored the lead again, deflecting in a Rani hit from a penalty corner as the Indians executed a fine variation.
The fragile Indian defence wilted under pressure once again, when South Africa drew level for the third time in the match, through a Marais strike.
South Africa enjoyed a good run of play in the initial minutes of final quarter and, in the process, secured three penalty corners quickly, but this time the Indian defence did enough to thwart the danger.
In the 49th minute, a brilliant Kataria saved the day for India when she deflected in Gurjit Kaur's flick from another penalty corner.
Thereafter, the Indians fell back and looked content to keep the possession as South Africa pressed hard.
Two minutes from the final hooter, the Indians successfully referred a penalty corner decision given against them.
"It is about consistency. Yesterday (Friday), we played a really good match. And now we have a back to back and your legs are heavier, things are not going as smoothly. So these things you just know. You saw our basics were not as good as yesterday, it is all about that," Marijne said.
"It is important to play matches. I am not someone, I hope you see that, who ever finds excuses, but we just have not done it. I don't blame anyone, it is just the way it is."
Marijne feels the knockout stage would be different ball game from the group stage.
"The tournament starts again. If you play well, or not well in the pool matches it does not matter, it starts all over.
"It will be another type of game because it is high pressure, everything or nothing. The good thing is we had that in the last two matches, so we have already experienced that."
2⃣ wins in the final 2⃣ pool games take the Indian Women's Hockey Team to the Quarter-Finals. 👏— Hockey India (@TheHockeyIndia) July 31, 2021
A special day indeed. 🇮🇳#HaiTayyar #IndiaKaGame #Tokyo2020 #TokyoTogether #StrongerTogether #HockeyInvites #WeAreTeamIndia #Hockey pic.twitter.com/5K5yCkpuqc