Even as the pandemic situation worsens in Uttar Pradesh, the state has launched one of the biggest polling exercises -- the Panchayat elections. The four-phased elections that began on Thursday morning will elect around eight lakh rural representatives.
The districts that are going to polls on Thursday are Ayodhya, Agra, Kanpur, Ghaziabad, Gorakhpur, Jaunpur, Jhansi, Prayagraj, Bareilly, Bhadohi, Mahoba, Rampur, Rae Bareli, Shravasti, Sant Kabir Nagar, Saharanpur, Hardoi and Hathras.
For the post of Zila Panchayat members, 11,442 candidates are in the fray from 779 wards, while as many as 81,747 candidates are contesting in 19,313 wards of Kshetra Panchayats.
For the Gram Panchayat, there are 1,14,142 candidates for 14,789 posts.
Though these polls are not fought on party symbols, the Panchayat election will have political parties throwing their weight behind contesting candidates to ramp up their preparedness and consolidate their position in the run-up to the Assembly polls next year.
The BJP has fielded its party functionaries in Zila Panchayat elections.
Data shows Prayagraj has the maximum number of 84 Zila Panchayat wards, followed by 83 in Jaunpur.
The home turf of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has 68 wards, while Ghaziabad and Mahoba have only 14 wards each.
In terms of Gram Panchayat, Jaunpur tops the chart with 1,740 Gram Panchayats, followed by Prayagraj which has 1,540.
Additional chief secretary, panchayati raj and rural development department, Manoj Kumar Singh told reporters that Rs 4.5 crore has been released for purchase of masks, gloves and sanitizers at the rural local bodies' level.
Former state election commissioner, Satish Kumar Agarwal, meanwhile, said that the Panchayat elections have been deferred in the past in normal times.
"Therefore, in these extraordinary times, there was no reason to hold them in the middle of the pandemic. The entire machinery involved in combating the pandemic will now be totally preoccupied with their responsibility of holding free and fair elections," he said.
Special guidelines have been issued for the employees on election duty.
The guidelines envisage meticulous sanitization of 80,762 polling booths and it will be mandatory for poll officials to wear face masks and download Aarogya Setu application in their mobiles.
Consumption of tobacco and spitting at public places will invite penal action. Polling officials, with help of police, home guards and gram chowkidars, will ensure voters follow social distancing norms while queuing up to exercise their franchise.
Polling officials may, however, ask voters to remove masks in case of suspicion.
All entry points to polling centres will have thermal scanners. In case body temperature of voters are found to be beyond the standard set by the health department, they would be given a token and asked to come in the final hour of polling.
These voters will, however, be able to vote only after screening.
(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)