Notorious for its electoral malpractices and illegal mining, Bellary is in the news again. This time, though, the talk of the town is the stepped-up vigilance to track election code violators through cameras installed in certain identified locations.
The district authorities have apparently reposed more faith in the closed-circuit television cameras (CCTVs), than anyone else, to catch those trying to hoodwink the authorities to influence the voters during campaigning.
While a camera installed outside B Sriramulu’s house has been recording 24x7 the activities of the BJP candidate, the gadget on Moka Road in Gandhinagar keeps a watch on the residence of Congress candidate N Y Hanumanthappa.
Deputy Commissioner Amlan Aditya Biswas, the returning officer, has installed 43 CCTVs in 23 different locations in select taluks, including Bellary, Hospet and Kampli, to monitor election-related activities. The recording happens through the day and the same is transferred live to the monitoring room at the DC’s office via the Internet. A huge digital monitor is installed in the control room to keep tabs on the visuals.
Two PTZ cameras, which have zooming and rotating facilities, have been focusing mainly on the two prime candidates - Sriramulu of the BJP and Hanumanthappa of the Congress. The cameras can capture images up to 300 metres. But the CCTVs installed in other places are not as sophisticated as these.
Such digital monitoring has been put in place in Alipur Water Booster Point area, opposite Chaitanya College, Fire Station, Hussain Nagar, Kamela Road, Bapuji Nagar, Siriguppa Road, Cowl Bazar, Belagal Thanda among others in Bellary. As many as six locations in Hospet, including the TB Dam, have cameras. Officials can watch live feedbacks from 16 cameras at one go on a single monitor. The entire work is outsourced, sources said.
However, Biswas refuses to disclose the locations as it would defeat the very purpose of the secretive exercise. But he did admit that the house of Sriramulu and the road where Hanumanthappa resides are being monitored, as they have been identified as “Expenditure Sensitive” locations.
The officer said the entire constituency fell under the Expenditure Sensitive zone. Therefore, Bellary has two expenditure observers, while many constituencies have one, he pointed out. He also rubbished the BJP’s complaint against him to the Election Commission that he was targeting Sriramulu.
“Both the BJP and the Congress candidates are under special observation. I am just going by the EC rules. The one-decade history of the constituency shows that money had been an issue during the elections. Hence, preventive measures have been put in place to monitor public roads, too.
After all, an election is an exercise to find a road to good governance. Let us provide a level playing field to all the candidates,” he said.
Asked whether the candidates had been indulging in irregularities or had devised news ways to lure the voters, the officer replied in the negative. He said sarees, cricket stumps and clocks had been recovered from the Bellary residence of Ramachandra Reddy, MLA from Rayadurga, Andhra Pradesh.
He said 300 litres of liquor and Rs 80 lakh in cash had been seized from across the district so far.
Chief Electoral Officer Anil Kumar Jha said, “Nothing special is happening in Bellary except following the model code of conduct. Where the money flow is expected to be more, vigilance has been heightened there,” he added.
Besides the CCTVs, 700 SIM cards have been distributed to select people to help them inform the district authorities about violations during campaigning. Of the 1,896 polling booths, 1,300 would be under intense watch.