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Covid protocols go for toss at panchayat counting venues

LUCKNOW: Covid protocols were violated on Sunday during counting of votes for UP panchayat elections that seeks to elect representatives to 3,050 zila panchayat wards, 75,852 kshetra panchayat wards and 58,176 gram panchayats. Counting took place at 829 centres across the state.
Voting for the four-phased rural elections – considered a bellwether of the high-stakes UP assembly elections due next year – ended on Thursday with an average turnout of 73%. Till reports came in, BJP-supported candidates were leading in most zila panchayat ward seats, followed by SP and BSP-backed candidates.
Many districts, including Azamgarh, Siddharthnagar, Jaunpur, Sultanpur, Amethi, Jalaun, Fatehpur, Gonda and Sitapur witnessed overcrowding at counting venues in open violation of social distancing norms.
State election commission had asked district administrations to make a public announcement, warning people against flouting Corona protocols. It also instructed officials on the ground to sanitise venues, ensure no crowds gathered outside counting centres and polling agents maintain social distancing.
The poll panel directions were, however, flouted even as supporters of candidates assembled at the venue gates. In Kannauj, there were reports of nine counting agents testing Covid positive and in Firozabad, police resorted to lathicharge to control overcrowding.
At many centres, people outside the venues did not wear masks.
Corona protocol violations forced chief minister Yogi Adityanath to step in and he issued stern directives to district magistrates and district police chiefs to restrict crowding at counting centres.
On Saturday, Supreme Court had asked state election commission to ensure strict adherence to Covid-19 protocols and preserve CCTV footage of counting venues.

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