Bihar Polls: State explores ways to get more people to vote safely amid Covid


Patna: The Bihar government is trying to increase voter turnout in the upcoming assembly election without letting its guard down in the fight against Covid-19, a stiff challenge especially since public activities have increased because of election campaigning and the ongoing festive season.

“Definitely festivals and elections increase public activities and these are bound to contribute to the Covid-19 surge. We regularly discuss the Kerala model during our meetings as how one Onam festival has led to a surge in cases in Kerala,” Pratyay Amrit, health secretary, Bihar told ET. “We are keeping a close watch. It is a challenging period for us.”

The health department has adopted a multi-pronged approach in order to control the spread of the virus. Bihar is conducting about 120,000 tests every day, and the state had 10,621 active cases on Sunday evening. The number is not high compared with the figures of other states but an election activity could add to the surge.

“We have identified districts which are reporting constant Covid-19 cases and are a little bit towards surging. Patna, Araria and Saharsa are the districts we have put on our watch,” said Amrit.

On Sunday Patna recorded 316 new Covid-19 cases while Araria and Saharsa recorded 72 and 15 new cases respectively. Some other districts, such as Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur and Purnia, are also under watch as they have been recording a constant increase in numbers.

In Patna, the government has done a sero survey and identified certain pockets which are contributing to the list regularly. The administration has also clamped restrictions in these areas.

“Nominations are being filed for the elections. We have set up our camp equipped with testing and primary treatment facilities at the nomination centres,” said Amrit. “During public rallies we set up our camp at a distance from the venue and people can voluntarily come and get their tests done at the centre.”

For the second challenge – to increase the voter turnout – district administrations are working on awareness programmes. “We have identified 40 booths in each assembly segment of Patna, which had recorded a low voter turnout in the previous election,” said Kumar Ravi, district magistrate, Patna. “Our special focus on these booths.”

In the past few days, apart from ads, the district administration has organised a bike rally, lighting rally and various games in the area, aimed at encouraging people to cast their votes and to make them aware of the Covid-19 guidelines.

A contactless voting has been planned on the election day with strict Covid-19 protocol.

Similar efforts are being made in the other districts of the state. Ravi said a lot of complaints of violation of Covid-19 guidelines had come during the nominations and accordingly first information reports have been registered against the parties and the candidates.

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