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Counting of votes for Panchayat polls begins in UP
Counting has begun for the panchayat polls in Uttar Pradesh amidst tight security and strict compliance of Covid safety protocols.
The UP government, as per Supreme Court directives, has notified a nodal officer for each of the 829 counting centres, mostly government schools, to ensure that the personnel for counting, candidates and their agents as well as security personnel, adhere to the specified Covid protocols.
The Supreme Court, on Saturday, had turned down a petition seeking deferment of counting of votes in view of the pandemic situation.
Nearly 600 teachers, deployed for election duty, have died of coronavirus infections. The various teachers' union that had earlier threatened to boycott counting, finally relented after talks with the chief secretary on Saturday evening.
An inquiry is on into the allegations about the death of teachers due to Covid during polling.
The UP government has decided that no congregation of the general public would be allowed around the counting centres and the curfew imposed in the state till Tuesday morning would be strictly enforced.
The three-tier panchayat election process was initiated for a total of 8,69,563 seats but actual voting was required in only 2,41,451 seats as rest were uncontested.
The State Election Commission (SEC) has restricted the total number of persons at a counting centre to 150, including poll officials, 75 candidates and their agents.
"Counting will take place in eight hourly shifts and after each shift, the centre will be fully sanitized," the SEC spokesman said.
No one, not even the election officials and security personnel, would be allowed entry into the counting centres without proving that they are Covid negative or have taken both doses of vaccine.
It will be mandatory for candidates and authorized representatives to produce a RT-PCR or Rapid Antigen Test report or Covid-19 vaccination completion report.
Massive rush was seen over the weekend at testing centres where candidates and their supporters queued up for Covid test.
Meanwhile, according to government spokesman, the results of the panchayat elections are likely to start rolling in by late on Sunday night or Monday since elections were held through ballots papers.
"It may even by Tuesday before the final results come in," said a SEC official.
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