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ECI registers record seizure of over Rs 4,650 crore, 45% of which accounts for drugs

Election Commission

NEW DELHI, APRIL 15: The Election Commission (ECI) on Monday said that with electioneering for the general elections 2024 underway, it has been on track by making the highest ever seizures of inducements recorded in the 75-year history of Lok Sabha elections in the country.
An official statement from the poll panel said that enforcement agencies have made a record seizure of over Rs. 4,650 crore in the ECI’s resolute fight against money power even before the first phase of polling for the 18th Lok Sabha elections commences on Friday.
The amount marks a sharp increase from Rs 3,475 crore seized during the entire Lok Sabha election in 2019, it said.
It is significant to note here that 45% of the seizures are of drugs and narcotics (Rs 2,068.10 crore), that are under the special focus of the Commission, the poll panel revealed adding that the seizures have been possible by comprehensive planning, scaled up collaboration and unified deterrence action from agencies, proactive citizen participation and optimal engagement of technology.
Apart from drugs, the EC teams have seized Rs.395.39 crore in cash, Rs 489.31 crore worth of liquor, precious metal worth Rs 562.10 crore and freebies and other items valued at Rs 1,142.49 crore.
The enhanced seizures reflect ECI’s unwavering commitment to monitor inducements and curb electoral malpractices for a ‘level playing field’, particularly in favour of smaller and less resourceful parties, said ECI Joint Director Anuj Chandak in an official statement.
In an incident in Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, the Commission suspended the flying squad leader for laxity in duty and selective checking of a cavalcade of a prominent leader, he said.
“Similarly, officials checked vehicles in the convoy of the Chief Minister of a State and also the vehicle of a Deputy Chief Minister in another State. The Commission has also taken strict action against approximately 106 Government servants, who have been found assisting politicians in campaigning, thereby violating the Code of Conduct and instructions”, Chandak said.
Use of black money, over and above political financing, could disturb the level playing field in favour of more resourceful party or candidate, it noted, adding that the seizures are a critical part of its resolve to hold the Lok Sabha elections free of inducements and electoral malpractices and to ensure a level playing field.
Drug seizures accounted for approximately 75% of the total seizures in January and February this year with the poll panel focussing on the menace much before the poll schedule was announced.
Over the past few years, significant seizures have been made during elections to State Assemblies in Gujarat, Punjab, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, and Mizoram.
CEC Rajiv Kumar, while announcing the polls last month, had underlined money power as one of the ‘4M’ challenges, the poll authority recalled.
The poll panel pointed out that it has been taking action to ensure level playing field such as checking vehicles of prominent leaders and even removing officials for laxity in carrying out their mandate.
EC sources also pointed out that there was “nothing new” in search of helicopters, as was done in case of TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee.
In the run-up to the polls, all District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police were told to keep a strict watch on airfields and helipads. Such searches are taking place in airfields, both public and private, across the country to ensure inducements are not ferried by air, the said.