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NHRC seeks report on Covid violations in poll rallies in India


BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought for an Action
Taken Report (ATR) from the Chief Election Commissioner and the Union Home Secretary over Covid guidelines violation during the electoral process in several states and Union Territories.

Acting on a petition filed by Supreme Court lawyer and human rights activist from Odisha Radhakanta Tripathy, the apex human rights panel has directed the authorities to submit the report within four weeks.

While the assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry ended recently, four more phases of the eight-phase election in West Bengal are left. Similarly, by-polls in 14 assembly seats, including one in Odisha are scheduled on April 17.

Tripathy alleged the political parties have been conducting unregulated election rallies, public meetings and mass congregations in contravention of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare's slogan of 'Do Gaz ki Duri, Mask hai Jaruri' and the congregations are responsible for the surge of coronavirus in the country.

"The infection is rising rapidly and people are subjected to sufferings due to inaction of the Election Commission, the Central and state governments. Forget about social distancing, a majority of people even do not use mask putting their life in risk. This amounts to serious human rights violation during the pandemic," he contended.

Tripathy had initially lodged a complaint before the Election Commission of India and when he failed to get any relief, he approached the rights commission seeking its urgent intervention.

While restrictions have been imposed on social gatherings like marriage, religious events and even funeral, surprisingly the political parties care two hoots and continue to organise big rallies and congregations endangering the lives of poor and unsuspecting people, he pointed out.

In Odisha, the political parties, mainly BJD, BJP and Congress have announced thirty numbers each as their star campaigners for Pipili by-poll. There are night curfew and other methods of restraint by the governments to combat the spread of virus, but the same goes in vain for elections indicating serious discrimination among public and violating the right to life, Tripathy added.

He has requested the NHRC to ensure compensation for the voters who suffered due to the negligence of election officials and lack of necessary precautionary measures by the government.