NEW DELHI: A day after the Election Commission announced that candidates or their agents will not be allowed inside counting halls without a negative COVID-19 report, the TMC on Thursday said it is "surprising" that the directions are not applicable to polling officers and Central Armed Police Forces' (CAPF) personnel.
This, the Trinamool Congress said in a letter to the Election Commission, endangers the life and health of thousands of CAPF personnel who will be deployed outside counting halls.
In its latest guidelines issued on Wednesday for the counting of votes for assembly polls in four states and one union territory on May 2, the EC said that candidates or their agents will not be allowed inside counting halls without a negative coronavirus report or without having taken both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine within 48 hours of the start of counting.
Issued amid spiralling coronavirus cases in the country, the guidelines bar public gatherings outside venues during the counting process, but allow candidates to name a fresh agent if the first one tests positive for COVID-19.
"The directions mandate submission of a negative test report of COVID-19 of election agent, counting agent and/or candidate prior to such election agent, counting agent and/or candidate being permitted to enter the counting hall.
"However, surprisingly no such provision has been made for submission of negative test report of COVID-19 by polling officers present in the counting halls," the TMC said in its letter.
"Further, 23,000-24,000 Central Armed Police Forces' personnel will be deployed outside the counting hall(s) on May 2, 2021.
"Shockingly, there is an absence of any provision in the directions for use of PPE kits and submission of negative test report of COVID-19 by such CAPF personnel thereby endangering their health and life," it said.
The party further accused the poll panel of being "oblivious" to the safety of life of the CAPF personnel.
According to EC guidelines, district election officers will organise COVID-19 tests for candidates and their counting agents.
Further, the TMC demanded that postal ballot votes be counted before those cast on EVMs.
"It is of utmost importance that the counting of votes cast by postal ballot should be completed before the counting of votes cast on the EVM. Due to the large number of votes cast by postal ballot in view of the ongoing pandemic, the postal ballot counting will require additional time," it said.
"In the circumstances, we call upon you to forthwith address the aforesaid lacunae/inadequacies in the directions and issue appropriate additional directions to address the same," the party said.