According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a strong room is a special room with strong walls and a strong door where valuable things can be kept safe. Whereas, the Merriam Webster dictionary says that it is a room for money or valuables specially constructed to be fireproof and burglarproof.
Use in Indian elections
In its endeavour to conduct free, fair and transparent polls, The Election Commission (EC) takes various measures and sets up different mechanisms along with issuing of various instructions and guidelines to tackle various security issues related to storage of EVMs in the strong room and during the counting process.
Three-Layer security arrangements have been made at EVM strong rooms across the country ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, under the tight vigil of the election commission. With Central Para-military Forces (CPMF) guarding the inner circle of the strong rooms where the EVMs are kept, the outer parameter is secured by the state armed constabulary and local police or the District Executive Force is deployed on the streets.
The District Collectorate (DC) and Superintendent of Police (SP) are personally responsible for the security of strong room within the district and meticulous implementation of the protocol.
Security arrangements for Storage of EVMs and relevant documents in the Strong rooms after the completion of polls
The Control Units and Ballot Units meant for use at the election shall be separately taken to the R.O’s strong room under proper escort and will be guarded 24x7. At the time of sealing the strong room, the representatives of political parties can remain present and they can also affix their seal on the lock. For this purpose recognised National and State level political parties should be intimated in writing in advance.
The strong rooms should have only one entry point and a double lock system. One key should be kept with Returning Officer and the other with Assistant Returning Officer of concerned assembly constituency. Other entry points of the strong rooms (including windows) should be sealed in such a way that no one has access inside the strong rooms.
The entry point of strong room having EVMs shall have CCTV coverage round the clock.
A log book shall be maintained by the security personnel in which entry should be made about the date, time, duration and name(s) of anyone entering near the strong rooms. This includes visits by the Observers or DEOs or SPs or Political Parties/ Candidates or their agents or any other person.
If the counting hall is in the proximity of the strong room or the passage to the counting hall is near the strong room then proper strong barricading should be erected to ensure that the access to the inner perimeter of the strong room is completely blocked. In all such matters, the DEO shall personally oversee and approve all such arrangements and ensure that security of EVMs in no way breached.
In case the counting hall building is located at a distance or in a separate building away from the strong room then in those cases, effective barricading from the strong room door up to the counting hall door shall be made in such a way that EVMs of each constituency should go to its respective counting hall only and shall not be criss-crossing each other.
On the date of counting, additional CCTV camera may be installed at such locations from where the carrying of EVMs from these strong rooms to the counting hall can be recorded for effective monitoring.
The facility should not be located in/near areas with high risk of flooding such as: basement, immediately below rooftop, immediately below kitchen or canteen or chiller plant, below a building’s water tank, adjacent to or near the toilets and pantry, near the staircases, building drains or pump room, on a floor surrounded by open platform or an open area. Construction shall comply with all applicable building and safety regulations as laid down by the relevant government agencies and it must be tamper-evident.
Materials used for construction shall be fire resistant and free of toxic chemicals. The facility shall monitor any physical break-in attempts such as hammering, exploding, chiseling, etc. The construction must provide protection against the risks of cryptographic key loss, theft, and abuse. All the ducts electrical, air-conditioning, LAN should be built of noncombustible and dust-free materials, and should not, at any point provides physical access to the site from outside.
Moreover, all contesting candidates should be intimated in writing to depute their representatives to keep a close watch on the security arrangement of the strong room. They should be allowed to stay outside the inner perimeter at a location, which enables them to view the entry points of the strong room. As far as possible, facilities such as proper shade, drinking water, etc. may be provided to them. If there is no direct view to the strong room, CCTV may be arranged at the location, so that they can see the strong room door on CCTV. In such a case, they may be taken periodically to the inner perimeter in batches to see for themselves and verify the strong room security.
In this view, a control room adjacent to the strong room should be operative round the clock and a gazetted officer along with a police officer should be put on duty round the clock for monitoring the security arrangements of strong room.
Also, no vehicle, including that of any official or ministers or any other political functionary should be allowed inside the secured campus where the EVMs are stored. Alighting point for the vehicles should be marked clearly ahead of the outer security perimeter itself; beyond it should be a pedestrian zone only.
Your guide to the latest election news, analysis, commentary, live updates and schedule for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on firstpost.com/elections. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like our Facebook page for updates from all 543 constituencies for the upcoming general elections.
Updated Date: Apr 11, 2019 06:40:01 IST