Observers find flaws in poll security plan in Parsa

Birgunj, March 24:

Though the security situation in Parsa is relatively better than in other districts of central Tarai, local administration’s laxity is apparent in certain things pivotal to the election security plan, observers said.

“They couldn’t even wait till the elections. They have opened the line again,” complains Govinda Devkota, the district coordinator of the National Election Observation Committee (NEOC). ‘Opening the line’ is a local jargon used for unhindered and unchecked entry of goods through border points.

According to NEOC, it has recorded a number of cases wherein even police personnel are hands in glove with the smugglers at some border points, including the one at Amarpatti. Devkota said the negligence in border security could prove detrimental to the election security plan as arms could freely flow through the open and porous border.

Parsa CDO Bhola Siwakoti, however, downplays the threat. “I cannot say that the border is fully secured, but to say that the arms are freely flowing into the country is almost hilarious,” he argues, adding that just a handful of arms was seized at the border crossings over the past few months. He added that the local administration was planning to tighten security across the district, particularly along the border, in the face of threat issued by the armed groups to escalate violence to disrupt the April 10 polls.

Armed Police Force seems to have a strong presence in all the constituencies. “The government has done everything to boost our morale. Our pays and perks have been raised. We are well equipped. But we are stretched out. I have not slept for more than four hours a day for the last couple of weeks,” a young APF officer told this daily, insisting anonymity.

Two APF bases are functioning in each constituency and each base is mobilising two mobile vans, which could be seen crisscrossing nooks and corners of the constituency every few minutes.

But the district administration still seems to be unaware that some armed youths were freely roaming in the villages, including the northern belt of the district and extorting under the nose of the police bases.

Regarding criticism faced by the district administration for its poor intelligence, the CDO claimed that they have already developed a mechanism to pool all information collected by the civil administration, both the police forces and the National Investigation Department, so that correct interventions could be made immediately in case of a threat.

Yet another challenge to election security is related to the behaviour of the candidates. CDO Siwakoti complains that not all candidates were notifying the local administration or seeking security escort while venturing out into the countryside.

Only today many candidates, including UML’s Babujan Ali, were on door-to-door campaign in villages in Constituency No 1 without any security escort.

“It’s not that we don’t trust the police but we believe that it is safe enough to go to our villages on our own,” says Ali’s son Rustam, who has been campaigning for his father.