Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Feb 21:
Speakers at the 10th state level conference on Electoral and Political Reforms here on Friday called for stringent action against the candidates violating the model code of conduct and submitting false affidavits.
Participating in the discussion on ‘Building an Environment for Free and Fair Elections’ organised by Odisha Election Watch, the State Chapter of National Election Watch, in collaboration with Association of Democratic Reforms, at the Institute of Engineers here, they also emphasised the urgent need to take all necessary steps to combat criminalization, corruption, muscle power and money power in elections.
The inaugural session was chaired by Prof. Surjya Narayan Mishra, Core Team Member, OEW.
Eminent leaders of political parties, civil society groups, senior former administrators, educationist and media persons participated in the day-long discussion.
Speaking on the occasion, Anil Verma, Head, National Election Watch, ADR pointed out that 75% of the funding political parties receive are from unknown sources, while 31% of our 531 Members of Parliament (MPs) have declared criminal cases against themselves and 15% of sitting MPs have declared serious criminal cases.
Sahadev Sahoo, Former chief Secretary, Govt of Odisha a Core team Member, OEW called upon voters to make their own decision uninfluenced by external factors to choose the right candidate.
Initiating the discussion on “Combating Criminalization, Corruption and Money power in 2014 Elections -challenges before political parties” in the second session chaired by Amiya BHusan Tripathy, ex-Director General of Police (DGP), Odisha and Core team member of OEW, former Minister and veteran Congress Leader Narasingha Mishra made a case for proportional voting system and deployment of government officials from other states during election to reduce the use of money and muscle power in elections.
Dibakar Nayak of the CPI suggested introduction of State funding, banning criminals from contesting election and equal opportunities from Media for all contesting candidates. Narendra Swain, General Secretary, BJD stated that proportional representation can reduce the role of muscle and money power in the election. Kharavela Swain, ex MP & founder of Utkal Bharat, suggested setting up of special courts for considering criminal cases, violence in election and heavy punishment for disobeying code of conduct. Ashok Sahoo of the BJP called for a massive voter awareness campaign while Dhanada Mishra of the Aam Admi Party (AAP) called for total transparency in the election process.
Santosh Das of the CPM suggested a ban on sale of liquor during election. Soumyaranjan Pattnaik, ex MP, Ama Odisha Party suggested limiting the election campaign days can help reduce the chances of the use of muscle and money power. He lamented that now vote is not being won, rather it is being purchased.
Speaking at the next session on “Ensuring Free and Fair Election 2014- Role of Bureaucracy, Police and Judiciary”, chaired by Dr. Seba Mohapatra Ex-Director, Health Services, Odisha, Narayan Chandra Jena, former Additional Secretary of the Govt of Odisha, said deployment of proactive polling personnel, proper planning for their supervision before the election and ensuring the safety and security of EVMs would go a long way in ensuring free and fair elections.
Sanjeev Hota, Former State Election Commissioner, Odisha emphasized on fully corrected voter list with photographs. He also proposed a code of conduct exclusively for the bureaucracy and police to be enforced by election commission. Hrudaya Ballav Das, retired CBI Judge emphasized checking the free flow of money to ensure free and flow election.
Participating in the discussion on “Role of Media for ensuring free and fair election” in the fourth session chaired by Baikuntha Nath Panigrahi, former Director Doordarshan, Jatin Das, IANS and Reuters, Sandeep Sahu, BBC and RJ Subrat Pati, Radio Chokolate emphasized the use of social media to create awareness among voters, the need to give scope to private radio channels for news broadcast and possible impact of paid news.
Dr. Mona Sharma, Chief Electoral Officer, Odisha addressing the valedictory session, said the there is an urgent need to verify names of all in the voters list online or with the help of voters’ help desk at all sub-collector’s office and also at CEO’s Office. She also mentioned that a 24 hour helpline number 1950 is available for voter’s help. She called for timely sharing of information regarding violation of code of conduct so that immediate action can be taken up. She also stated that monitoring of election expenditure shall be done in the forthcoming election by deputing special observers and flying squads.
Ranjan Kumar Mohanty, State Coordinator, Odisha Election Watch, proposed the vote of thanks.