‘State Health Ministry not consulted over Goa civic poll SOPs’

The Goa Health Ministry has not been consulted vis-a-vis allowing Covid-19 positive persons to vote in the upcoming zilla panchayat polls, Health Minister Vishwajit Rane said on Wednesday.

Asked to comment by the mediapersons over the state Election Commission’s decision on December 5 allowing Covid-19 patients to vote at polling booths, Rane was surprised earlier but later said everyone has the right to vote and if coronavirus positive persons are allowed at the polling booth, then proper precautions must be taken.

“How can Covid patients be allowed to vote? They have made provisions? It is the (state) Disaster Management Committee which brings out those Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs),” Rane told reporters, adding, that his Ministry had not been sent the file at the time of processing the SOPs, which allow Covid positive patients to cast their ballot.

“I have not read SOPs for the election… Everybody has a right to vote. They have to provide kits to people present in the booth, including the patients. It should be fine. I do not see any problem,” said Rane.

On December 5, state Election Commissioner Chokha Ram Garg had said eligible voters who are Covid-19 positive, would be allowed to vote for the forthcoming zilla panchayat elections during the last hour of the polling day.

The state poll Commission was adopting the Election Commission (EC) guidelines implemented during the recently held Bihar assembly elections, where similar Covid protocol was followed, Garg added.

The top poll official said that there were nearly 1,300 Covid-19 positive persons in Goa as compared to 1,200 polling booths for the zilla panchayat polls which statistically equalled to just more than one Covid-19 positive persons per booth.

Zilla panchayat polls in Goa are scheduled to be held on December 12.