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Punjab poll
Central forces for key seats
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 4
Several high-profile and key Assembly constituencies in Punjab will see the deployment of Central forces during the forthcoming Assembly elections in the state. The Union Home Secretary, Mr V.K. Duggal, will hold a meeting on Wednesday with senior Punjab Government officers to assess the requirement of the forces in the elections.

Though Punjab has no history of Bihar-type poll violence, the festering bitterness between the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in the past few years, is reason enough for the extra precaution this time. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has asked the Punjab Police to provide a detailed assessment on hyper-sensitive and sensitive polling booths in each constituency of the state. The list will be provided during the meeting that is to be held at Ludhiana, confirmed top officials of the Punjab Police. The MHA also has at its disposal the opinion of other agencies on the sensitivity of the booths.

The booths that were declared sensitive during the last elections in 2002 may not fall under the same category now. The fresh assessment has been made on the basis of the background of candidates contesting the poll, the parties and the political fallout in each constituency. Sources said clashes between the various groups of the SAD had also been taken note of. Once the final assessment of the security scenario was done, the MHA would send forces.

The SAD has been pressing for Central forces in the state and stated so on several occasions. Apart from the Assembly elections, the Punjab Government has asked the MHA to release its share of grants for the modernisation of the police and jail departments. In the past, the Punjab Government could not pay its share and the Central Government has stopped its own flow of funds also. Now, the state government has made a budgetary allocation and sought complete release of the funds.

The MHA team will also be reviewing the progress of the work and other facilities at the Wagah-Attari border. It will also discuss the development plan for the border areas. Sources within the government said the issue of liberalised visa for pilgrims on the Amritsar-Nankana Sahib route would also be taken up.

Mr Duggal and his team of officials will arrive in Punjab tomorrow. He will inaugurate the Punjab Police games in Jalandhar and visit various facilities created by the Punjab Police there. He will also inaugurate a seminar on “the problem of human trafficking and the role of the police” at Phillaur on Wednesday.

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