We will ensure free and fair polls, says official

Kodagu district administration will ensure free and fair local bodies elections scheduled to be held on December 18, Deputy Commissioner K.H. Ashwatha Narayana Gowda said on Wednesday.

He was addressing presspersons here. Poll officials would take steps to arrange for secret ballot and no mobile phones would be allowed inside the polling booths, Mr. Gowda, who is also the District Election Officer, said.

Ballot papers, after votes are cast, would not be allowed to be taken out but would have to be inserted into the ballot box instantly. Booth officials in every booth would supervise the process personally, he said.

There would be 1,390 voters exercising franchise in 96 booths set up in the district.

At the Madikeri City Municipal Council (CMC) booth here, members from the zilla panchayat, city municipal council, Madikeri Taluk Panchayat, two MLAs and three MLCs would cast votes, Mr. Gowda said. There were 29 members in the zilla panchayat, 31 in the city municipal council, 49 in the three taluk panchayats, 43 in the three town panchayats and 1,233 in the gram panchayats in the district.

Mr. Gowda said that 12 special teams would be on patrol on the day of polling to detect irregularities. There would be 102 booth officers, apart from 20 in the reserve list. As many as 230 policemen would be deployed.

Mustering would take place at the Old Assembly Hall here at 8 a.m. on Thursday. Elections would be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday. Counting would be taken up on December 21.

-The Hindu

Lorry owners threaten to go on strike

Kodagu lorry owners, sand contractors and construction work contractors, on Wednesday, threatened to organise a round-the-clock indefinite strike in front of the office of the Deputy Commissioner here, if licences for sand mining in the district for 2006-07 and 2007-08 were not renewed within seven days.

Speaking to presspersons here, a representative, Padmananda, said that apart from renewing the tenders awarded earlier, the district administration should call for fresh tenders for sand extraction in the district for 2008-09. (Tenders once awarded would be valid for a period of four years but licences are renewed every year.)

The last tender was awarded on June 1, 2004. Other members, B. Harish, B.T. Ramesh, T.G. Satish and Thimmaiah, said that in the absence of renewal of licence and inviting fresh tenders, the police and the RTO were imposing fines on sand transporters terming it as illegal.

The Government should be blamed for making way for illegal sand transportation. Such incidents would not have occurred if licences had been renewed and fresh tenders invited for 2008-09 to extract sand from river beds in the district, Mr. Harish said. The crackdown on sand mining and transportation had resulted in the stoppage of construction work in the district, resulting in the loss of work for labour. Lorry owners too were hit hard, he said.

Mr. Satish said that it had resulted in loss to the State Exchequer. Sand mining could be taken up in Kodagu only for a period of four months in a year. Mr. Satish said that certain persons were extracting sand in some places of the district despite the non-renewal of licence. Lorry owners and sand transporters would cooperate with the authorities to curb such illegal mining, he said.

-The Hindu