Election Commission of India declares six Lok Sabha constituencies as financially sensitive

Bengal: The Election Commission of India (ECI) has declared six of the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in Bengal as financially sensitive.

The six constituencies are Malda North, Malda South, Darjeeling, Asansol, North Calcutta and Bongaon.
The decision to mark these constituencies as “financially sensitive” comes in the backdrop of a steady increase in seizures of illegal substances and cash in Bengal over the last few elections.

According to data provided by the commission, illegal cash seizure in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was Rs 18.93 crore and increased to Rs 44.33 crore in the 2016 Assembly elections. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, this figure increased to Rs 118.04 crore. This trend continued in the 2021 assembly elections as well and the cash seizure reached Rs 300.11 crore.
“There are many districts in Bengal that share borders with Bangladesh and Nepal. This makes the state economically weak as there is a possibility of influx of illicit cash and drugs from neighboring countries. We need to stop the flow to make the elections free and fair,” said a senior official of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) office in Calcutta.
According to officials, the commission will keep additional surveillance on six constituencies to check illegal drugs, liquor or cash.
“The borders will be sealed and there will be additional checking at all entry and exit points. All check posts will be monitored through CCTV. Additional forces will be deployed to assist financial supervisors,” the official said.
The Commission has already roped in financial agencies like the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the Income Tax (IT) department and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) to investigate illegal financial transactions and identify expenditure-sensitive constituencies. They will check illegal flow of cash through international borders and monitor banking transactions.

The ECI has created a portal with 20 enforcement agencies, including the central and state governments, for a coordinated approach instead of working in silos to identify expenditure-sensitive constituencies.
“Bengal was historically considered a financially non-sensitive state, but in the last two elections, the amount of seizure was quite high and hence the Commission decided to engage ED to look into illicit financial flows in the state. The ED will submit its report to the election management committee constituted by the ECI,” said a senior commission official.

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