As the first lot of Electronic Voter Machines (EVM) machines arrive in Telangana, Rajat Kumar, the Chief Electoral Officer for Telangana assures that EVM's are 100 percent safe and those found to raise frivolous claims about EVMs malfunctioning will be prosecuted.
Kumar was taking stock of poll preparedness in the state on Friday.
The first batch of EVMs arrived at Asifabad district on Friday and EVMs will be dispatched to the rest of the districts over the course of the month.
"The first-level checking of the EVM machines will be done in the presence of political parties," said Rajat Kumar, "The machine will be checked for electronic and manufacturing defects. Political parties will be allowed to test the equipment to dispel their doubts," he added.
The CEO assured that the EVMS to be used in the upcoming Telangana elections are safe and assured that genuine cases of EVM malfunctions will be taken seriously.
He, however, warned that if the EVM malfunction claim was found to be untrue, the complainant could attract prosecution.
"All judicial cases have been decided in favour of EVMs. Those who are working with India's defence are the ones who have developed EVM's… If a voter feels that they press one button but if some other button lights up, the voter can go to polling officer and register a complaint, but frivolous claims will be prosecuted and genuine cases will be taken seriously," said Kumar.
A large-scale awareness campaign will be launched to increase voter participation in the state. District collectors have been roped in to increase voter participation in the polls that are expected to take place in December.
At present, the state EC is gearing up to be poll ready and the hiring of booth level officers has started.
"Training sessions will be held for the RO (Returning Officer) and ARO (Assistant Returning Officer) for four days followed by an exam. If a person fails the exam, he will not be permitted to act as Returning Officer," said Kumar.
The training will commence on September 24. The training sessions will also include teaching officials how to upload election information on the online portal, where election results will be updated periodically to improve transparency.
The Election Commission will oversee the training and the status of EVMs through an EVM tracking software. "The EC will take a final call of the state elections once they feel we have reached a basic level of poll preparedness," said Kumar.
There will be district and state level MMCs (Media Monitoring Committees) tasked with observing the advertisements which are broadcast on television and published in newspapers. Income Tax officials will get the standard advertising rates from the Information and Public Relations Department and keep a watch accordingly. I-T officials are being trained to keep an eye on candidate expenditures as well.
The state EC will also be keeping track of social media and WhatsApp - the officials have detailed instructions on what to look out for while monitoring social media. The electoral officer said the cybercrime units of the state are well equipped to track down the source of WhatsApp forwards.
The state police have been requested to access security level preparedness for the elections. In certain areas where the law and order situation is weak, special security plans will be devised as per the sensitivity analysis.
"Bhadradri- Kothagudem areas were identified as the sensitive areas. The movement of the banned organisations has been noted but we will make sure peaceful execution of elections," assured Kumar.
Other than logistical arrangements, there are other criteria that have to be checked - climate, the season will also be considered. Discussions on the arrangements to bring in paramilitary forces for additional poll related security have also begun, Kumar said.
"After all these are in place only then will the EC announce election dates for Telangana," he added.