Vivek Dube, special police observer for Bengal polls, says to think that whatever happened in Nandigram comes under the purview of Election Observers is not true.

 

New Delhi: The Sunday Guardian spoke to retired IPS officer Vivek Dube, who has been appointed to the crucial post of special police observer by the Election Commission of India (ECI) for the West Bengal Assembly polls, will reach the state on Sunday, an official said. Dube, a 1981-batch officer from Andhra Pradesh, was entrusted with the same responsibility in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Edited excerpts:

Q: What is your assessment regarding the poll preparedness in the state?

A: We are constantly meeting the various stakeholders. On Friday, we had four meetings at Purba Medinipur, Paschim Medinipur and Jhargram where we met representatives of all political parties one by one. Then we met the election observers of these districts, where views were exchanged; we heard their views and told them what their role is in ensuring that the elections are conducted in a free and fair manner. We then met the DMs, SP, Additional SPs, ADMs of all these three districts and discussed with them on the same lines so that we can get a clear picture of the situation on the ground.

Then we met the paramilitary forces who have come here for election duty.

 Q: What was the input that you got? There is a fear that large-scale violence might take place during the elections. Already 495 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) have been brought into the state?

 A: If there is more force, then it will ensure better bandobast. There is no harm if more companies are sent as we will be able to cover more areas in a better way. If the number of forces is less, we face a problem. We have already one communication seeking more forces; we will be sending one more communication soon.

Q: What do you have to say about the TMC letter to the ECI alleging that the election body was working in a biased manner? They have insinuated that you are acting in a biased manner.

A: What can I do if someone is alleging something against me? I can’t do anything. I have come here to do a job that is assigned to me. Our only job is to ensure free and fair polls and that’s what we are doing. And in all the meetings that we are taking, we are just talking about ensuring an environment where a common man is able to cast his vote as per his own wish, without any fear.

Please understand that law and order is a state subject and our main responsibility is to check poll preparedness. To think that whatever happened in Nandigram (referring to the accident involving Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee) comes under the purview of the Election Observers is not true.

Q: West Bengal voters, whom I have spoken to, fear that they will be assaulted if they go out to vote since they have been identified as supporters of a particular party. These voters say that the Central forces will be at the booth, but not at the roads, streets that lead to polling booths. What is the solution to this?

A: The CAPF comes to assist the state police in the conduct of the elections, to help the state police. I am saying this repeatedly that the state police have to play a very important role to ensure that the elections are done in a free and fair manner. If the state police fails to do what is expected from them, then what can we say?

We have done, are doing whatever we can. CAPFs have already come; all polling booths are going to be covered by the CAPFs. We have also formed Quick Response Teams (QRTs) composed of CAPF personnel who will immediately rush to a spot where trouble is happening to assist the voters. All this is being done, but the CAPFs will and can only assist.

If something happens outside the booth, someone is assaulted; intimidated at his home, on the roads near his home, the CAPFs cannot do anything in these circumstances. To control rowdies and goondaism is the responsibility of the state police. The CAPFs can control things in the 200 meter radius of the polling booth. To say that the CAPFs will do everything is not right.

 Q: We all saw the kind of violence that took place during the panchayat elections in May 2018.

A: Yes, we all saw what happened during the panchayat polls. It happened because the CAPFs were not there.

 Q: Considering the way some IAS, IPS officers openly participated in a political protest that took place in Kolkata a few years ago (February 2019), is it correct to think that they will do their job in an unbiased manner and support the CAPFs in ensuring conduct of elections in a free and fair manner?

 A: I am reiterating this again that the IAS, IPS officers are expected to support the CAPFs who are here to assist the state police. We will be using officers who are ready to do their job. All of the officers whom we have met have assured that they will be executing their responsibility properly. We are doing our best; we are spending every minute on our job. We also get exhausted, we are giving everything.