EC tells DCs to check ‘locks and seals’ of strong rooms

EC orders strict security measures

With state Congress president Virbhadra Singh raising apprehensions over the safety of the EVMs, the Election Commission (EC) on Monday directed all district returning officers (DROs) in Himachal Pradesh to conduct a thorough review of security measures at the strong rooms, where the machines have been kept, and submit their reports to Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Narinder Chauhan.

"Some people have expressed apprehensions about the safety of the polled EVMs due to long period between the polling and counting dates in Himachal Pradesh. The EC had issued detailed guidelines about measures for security of the EVMs. It is desired that you comply with the instructions and sent a report," the EC directive reads. The returning officers have been advised to check deployments, inspect seals and locks of the strong rooms and follow the nine-point security protocol for the EVMs.

The strong rooms are protected by two layers of round-the-clock security. While the outer ring is manned by state armed police, the inner is guarded by armed ITBP personnel. The strong-rooms, where the EVMs are stored at 39 locations have been put under a double-lock system -one key is with the deputy commissioner and the other with an EC observer.

While the Commission's guidelines allows representatives of candidates to visit the locations of the stored EVMs, but inquiries from all 12 Returning Officers has revealed that not a single request has come from the parties or candidates desirous of visiting the strong rooms sites.

"We have made proper boarding and lodging arrangements for representatives of candidates in a separate room near the ITBP-guarded strong rooms. The EC guidelines are very clear and any political party or candidate can at any time come and check the arrangements after obtaining proper permission from the returning officers," said DC Hamirpur Rajender Singh.

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