, 101 tweets, 54 min read
#DidYouKnow Though #AzimPremji was born in #Mumbai, the business journey of his family began in the small town of Amalner in Jalgaon district where his father, Muhammad Hashim Premji had a unit manufacturing vegetable oil and a laundry soap he set up in 1945. #ObserverDiaries
It is said that Jinnah had requested Hashim Premji to migrate to #Pakistan after Partition but he chose to remain in India. Only that vegetable oil unit remains as a token presence of the family's group at Amalner though it has expanded phenomenally in the country and overseas.
Driving through rural northern Maharashtra in Jalgaon district gives one a great idea of how brilliant this monsoon has been for this part of the state. All water bodies are full to the brim, like the Bahula river in the photos, which used to be as dry as a bone! #ObserverDiaries
The offshoot of a brilliant monsoon is that this will keep the farmers busy for the next two years. They are now so occupied with their crops in this agricultural belt that officials are predicting a thinner attendance in political rallies during the elections! #ObserverDiaries
A typical north Maharashtra lunch at Chalisgaon in Jalgaon district! Kalna (a mixture of Jowar, Urad dal and salt) and Bajri Bhakri (Bajra roti) along with local variety of baingan bharta, made of green brinjals with peanuts! Accompanied by sev bhaji! #lunch #ObserverDiaries
Jalgaon in Maharashtra is also referred to as the BANANA CAPITAL of the country as it accounts for one-sixth of the country's banana production and two-thirds of Maharashtra's production. Besides, the banana yields here are the highest at 53 tonnes per acre. #ObserverDiaries
Though banana is grown all over the district, most of the production comes from Raver subdivision, which accounts for about three-quarters of the production in the district. During the main seasons, hundreds of trucks carry the fruit to all parts of the country. #ObserverDiaries
I just noticed that Jalgaon has a decent mall - Khandesh Central, with a INOX in it. Due to its proximity to Gujarat, the city also has a sizeable Gujarati population and thus garbha is celebrated with full gusto, with participation fees as high as ₹5000! #ObserverDiaries
Farewell, Jalgaon, till I come back on 8th of next month. Home beckons for a week now. This 3-day trip was to oversee preparations for monitoring of poll expenditure. The actual task begins on 8th when poll expenditure of candidates will be monitored intensively. #ObserverDiaries
Back in Jalgaon again for my second leg of election duty as Expenditure Observer for the two constituencies of Pachora and Chalisgaon. The monitoring of the campaign expenditure of the candidates is one of the most important dimensions of our electoral process. #ObserverDiaries
All Expenditure Observers have to be there in the district headquarters of the constituencies allotted to them from today till the voting process is finished. I shall be sharing information about the poll process & my experiences. Please do follow my posts under #ObserverDiaries!
On my way to the constituency of Pachora and then to Chalisgaon on my first day. Today is #VijayaDashami but I am away from my family as there are no holidays and weekends during the election period. Conducting and monitoring elections is a 24x7 activity. #ObserverDiaries
Though I may return to Jalgaon in the evening after conducting meetings with the Expenditure Monitoring Cells in the two constituencies, I have to be available 24x7 for receiving any complaints of electoral malpractices or for conducting surprise inspections. #ObserverDiaries
Pachora is a small agricultural town about 50 km south-west of Jalgaon towards Nashik. It's more known as the terminus of the 56km Narrow Gauge line (please see photo) connecting the town of Jamner, the constituency of a prominent minister, Shri. Girish Mahajan. #ObserverDiaries
The journey between the two towns takes 2.5 hours but is quite popular among students and teachers from Pachora and the 5 stations along the route. Besides, the ticket fare is only ₹15, compared to ₹70 by road, though the journey by road takes only 1.5 hours. #ObserverDiaries
The other constituency town, Chalisgaon, is a slightly bigger agricultural town which is also famous for its dairy industry. Chalisgaon is also known as the home of a slightly lesser known but a brilliant Parsi painter and photographer called Keki Moos (photo). #ObserverDiaries
Keki Moos was the nephew of R.C.Contractor, who was engaged in construction of the historic Victoria Terminus in Mumbai. Keki's mother, Piroja, was married to Manekji Framji Moos, who moved to Chalisgaon in the 1920s to set up a soda bottle factory in the town. #ObserverDiaries
Keki studied art in England and came back to live in Chalisgaon (house in photo). He built up a huge collection of paintings and gained expertise in the art of tabletop photography. He was given the title of Kala Maharshi & his house is being made into a museum. #ObserverDiaries
His house was visited by PM Jawaharlal Nehru in 1952 when he had come to Dhule to campaign for the Congress candidate. Keki had also built lasting friendships with Acharya Vinoba Bhave and Baba Amte. He passed away in 1993 and was buried in his house compound. #ObserverDiaries
Shifting the attention to electoral processes, the financial aspects of electioneering and the maintenance of expenditure accounts by the candidates is very important but is hardly talked about in the media and the voters are hardly aware of this dimension. #ObserverDiaries
The expenditure limits for candidates contesting assembly elections has been fixed at ₹28 lakhs. All candidates have to account for every rupee they spend during their campaign and maintain proper books of accounts as per the format given by Election Commission. #ObserverDiaries
All candidates are required to open a new current bank account exclusively for the elections. All transactions made from the account are then recorded in a register and all expenditure vouchers have to be preserved. All these have to be submitted for inspection. #ObserverDiaries
The accounts of candidates are inspected by the Accounting team in the office of the Returning Officer of the constituency, assisted by an Assistant Expenditure Observer who in turn reports to the Expenditure Observer, who is deployed by the Election Commission. #ObserverDiaries
The candidates have to submit their accounts for inspection three times during the campaign period, on the dates fixed by the Expenditure Observer. The expenditure details of candidates are then tallied with the Shadow Register maintained by the Accounting Team. #ObserverDiaries
A Shadow Register is a document maintained by the Accounting Team, which independently assesses the expenditure incurred by the candidate through Video Surveillance teams deployed to tail the campaign programs of the candidates and records such campaign programs. #ObserverDiaries
The Video Surveillance Teams record every minor detail of the campaign programs - the flags, banners, vehicles used, stage expenditure, chairs hired, sound systems etc. and submits the videos to the Accounting team, which then assesses the expenditure incurred. #ObserverDiaries
The expenditure incurred is assessed by the Accounting team based on the Schedule of Rates fixed by the District Election Officer (DEO) for almost every item which is used by candidates during the course of campaigning, in consultation with reps of the parties. #ObserverDiaries
The Schedule of Rates (SOR) would include every minor item used by candidates - hire charges of vehicles, chairs, sound systems, stage arrangements, cost of banners, flags, meals etc. I have seen the SOR even include the cost of items like mosquito repellents. #ObserverDiaries
Hit the road again after inspecting the PM's rally venue in Jalgaon, which is scheduled to take place in another hour or so. Due to the limited number of rallies PM addresses during state elections, the rally covers the campaign for for about 20-30 candidates. #ObserverDiaries
For such huge rallies, substantial expenditure is incurred on stage, temporary structures, sound systems, chairs etc. which may go up to ₹40-50 lakhs. This expenditure is then equally divided among the candidates on stage and entered in their expenditure books. #ObserverDiaries
Like they capture every minor detail of a rally venue for assessment of expenditure, my video surveillance team managed to capture my presence at the PM's rally venue in Jalgaon, without my knowledge. I didn't even know where they were stationed at the rally. 😃 #ObserverDiaries
After a brief inspection of the PM's rally, I went to Pachora for inspection of accounts of candidates and then had this delicious dish of Khandesh for lunch - Dal Bhatti - a deep-fried mix of wheat and corn flour, to be had by crushing and dipping it in dal! 😋 #ObserverDiaries
Now coming back to elections, as I said earlier, Expenditure Observers are deputed to oversee the Expenditure monitoring mechanism in constituencies they are allotted. Besides the Financial team, there's an Assistant Expenditure Observer to assist the Observer. #ObserverDiaries
The Expenditure Observers (EOs), deployed by the EC, are middle level officers from the organized Revenue Services (both IT & GST) and from Finance & Accounts services from the Ministries of Defence, Railways, Telecom and even from the statutory Audit service. #ObserverDiaries
The Asst.EOs (AEOs) are normally senior supervisors or subordinate officers from above-mentioned departments or even officers from nationalized banks are deployed for this duty. The Financial team consists of officers and staff from the state Treasury service. #ObserverDiaries
My first leg of duty as EO started on 27th last month, the day of gazette notification by the EC. It was basically to oversee the preparedness of the district administration for expenditure monitoring before the start of the process of filing of nominations. #ObserverDiaries
The first engagement was a meeting with the District Collector, who briefs the Observers about the election preparedness, in this beautiful colonial building of 1911, which houses the Collectorate. Then we toured our constituencies to meet the election officials. #ObserverDiaries
This leg of election duty lasted for 3 days, following which we went back and returned on the 8th of this month to take charge and remain in Jalgaon district till the elections are over. The day behan with meeting the election officials in my constituencies. #ObserverDiaries
This meeting is basically to review the preparedness, meet the AEOs and members of the Expenditure monitoring team and reiterate EC's guidelines. Then the day of briefing the candidates/their agents and the dates of inspection of their accounts are also fixed. #ObserverDiaries
The next day was the meeting with the candidates or their agents. Normally, the candidates of organized political parties send their agents. The purpose of the meeting is to basically reiterate the rules of the game, i.e., EC's guidelines on election expenditure.
#ObserverDiaries
It's also to ascertain whether they have been provided with the stationery for maintenance of Accounts, the manual on expenditure rules framed by the EC, besides reiterating the sanctity of the election process and the need to abide by the rules of the game. #ObserverDiaries
The above-mentioned documents are provided to the candidates by the Returning Officers at the time of filing their nominations. They have to also then obtain approval for the vehicles they would use during the campaign and the details of campaign programmes. #ObserverDiaries
They are required to maintain a daily account of the expenditure they have incurred on campaigning in the stationery provided to them and preserve the vouchers. These accounts are inspected three times during the campaign period on the dates communicated to them. #ObserverDiaries
The photos below are scenes from the inspection of Accounts of candidates, which are presented by the agents. All entries in the registers have to be supported with vouchers and have to be in accordance with the SOR finalized by the DEO before the elections. #ObserverDiaries
These inspections are conducted in the presence of the EO by the Expenditure monitoring team and the AEO. All vouchers are tallied with the entries and the rates are verified. Any disputes with regard to the entries are then referred to the EO for resolution. #ObserverDiaries
These are photos of the meetings with the candidates or their agents on 9th. These meetings are held in the presence of the Returning Officers as well as the Expenditure monitoring team. My briefing is translated to the regional language, if felt necessary. #ObserverDiaries
The Expenditure monitoring team consists of Video Surveillance Teams (VST), Video Viewing Team (VVT), Static Surveillance Teams (SSTs) and Flying Squads (FS) - allbto ensure proper expenditure monitoring of candidates and prevent abuse of money by them. #ObserverDiaries
The VSTs trail the candidates, capture all major and minor details of their campaign programmes and submits the CDs to the VVT, which views the videos along with the Accounting team and works out the expenditure based on the details captured in the videos! #ObserverDiaries
This helps us assess the actual expenditure incurred by the candidates, which is very often more than the expenditure shown by the candidates at the time of inspection of their accounts. This acts as a deterrent against lavish expenditure by the candidates. #ObserverDiaries
Candidates, more often than not, agree to our assessment of expenditure and then account for it in their books. If they don't agree and the issue can't be resolved, a notice is issued to them, a reply obtained & action taken according to the merits of the reply. #ObserverDiaries
The Flying Squads consist of an officer designated as an executive magistrate, videographer and armed guards, who act on any complaint of abuse of money power, illegal gratification of voters and other violations of model code of conduct. #ObserverDiaries
It's very important for candidates to submit their accounts for inspection on the dates communicated to them. In West Bengal, 2016, I had to issue a notice to the state's current Finance Minister for absence. He expressed regret and the explanation was accepted. #ObserverDiaries
The roads of Jalgaon district are in a pretty bad shape either due to excessive rains this year or due to the relaying work being carried out. Even the national highway to Nagpur isn't in a good shape due to repair work. Makes road journeys almost back breaking. #ObserverDiaries
Friends, today is the last day of campaigning and the elections in Maharashtra & Haryana are on Monday. My personal appeal to the voters of these two states, especially those in the cities, is to please drop their long weekend plans and go out to vote on Monday. #ObserverDiaries
The administration of both these states and ECI have put in a lot of effort so far to ensure that the elections are conducted smoothly and have made all arrangements to prevent use of muscle and money power. Please vote and recognise their efforts. #ObserverDiaries #Elections2019
Union Minister #SmritiIrani just drove past our vehicle in a congested lane in Chalisgaon, as a part of the party's effort on the last day of the campaign. Was on my way to inspect the arrangements made for the huge rally of the star campaigner in a local ground. #ObserverDiaries
Substantial arrangements are made for such rallies by a star campaigner. These pictures give an idea of the arrangements - a huge rainproof shamiana, more than 300 feet long, LCD screen, sound system (on the right) and thousands of chairs hired for the rally. #ObserverDiaries
And the logistics of the Expenditure monitoring team also have to be in place. Our video surveillance teams are in place at least 3 hours before the rally to record all the arrangements made and the vehicles hired for the rally. Another team goes to the helipad. #ObserverDiaries
The team at the helipad records the expenditure at the site - number of vehicles, banners etc. and follows the star campaigner to the site of the rally. The expenditure incurred in preparing the helipad by the PWD is booked to the candidate's expenditure account. #ObserverDiaries
The teams then stay and record the speeches made during the rally by the speakers and go around the rally venue because arrangements for food are also normally made at the rally site and in adjacent venues. That also has to be recorded for expenditure purposes. #ObserverDiaries
These videos of the rallies are extremely important for assessing the expenditure incurred by the candidate for such rallies. The recordings are also used to verify whether there have been any violations of the Model Code of Conduct by any of the speakers. #ObserverDiaries
Kichchdi is perhaps the most common dish which is made in every part of the country. But the Kichchdi of Khandesh is slightly different - tastes a bit more like pulao, with a healthy sprinkling of groundnuts! Main item for my #lunch today at Chalisgaon! #ObserverDiaries #food
A severe thunderstorm lashing Chalisgaon and heavy rain supposedly all over Jalgaon district! I suppose the campaigning period has been brought to an abrupt end a couple of hours early. #thunderstorms #MaharashtraAssemblyPolls #ObserverDiaries
It may be Sunday but it's election day tomorrow. Neither can I relax nor mourn death of my friend, @vasudevan_k. Today is the day for distribution of polling material to polling parties who will leave and take up their positions in their allotted booths today. #ObserverDiaries
These are the arrangements made at Pachora for the polling parties. The number of poll officials would number around 1500-2000, including security personnel. The allotment of booths is kept confidential and is displayed only this morning to prevent any collusion. #ObserverDiaries
This is the kit given to every polling party, which consists of the EVM, VVPAT unit, ballot unit and important documents like ballot papers, voting slips etc. which are required during the voting process. Also provided is a specially designed voting compartment.#ObserverDiaries
The polling parties are then briefed about the protocols to be followed once they reach their allotted polling booths and important instructions are given by the Returning Officer. The polling parties are also served lunch at the venue before they depart. #ObserverDiaries
The polling parties then depart in specially hired buses of the state government, along with security escort. Lady polling officials are normally allotted booths in the town itself and can come to their booths early in the morning before the voting begins. #ObserverDiaries
The heavy rain, possibly due to the Retreating monsoon, presents a challenge to the election process here in Chalisgaon. The SDM tells me that it rained 178 mm in four hours last evening and the water in the polling material distribution venue was knee deep. #ObserverDiaries
I had posted about the thunderstorm last evening as I was leaving Chalisgaon towards Jalgaon. It seems have rained heavily and water in the above-mentioned venue had to be pumped out. Hoping that tomorrow, the D-Day, would be a dry day, in more ways than one. 😃 #ObserverDiaries
Today is voting day in #Maharashtra and #Haryana! Technology allows real-time updating of voting percentages. Here in Pachora constituency, it can be seen on the screen that the voting percentage is 12.77% at 11AM (please zoom to see)! #MaharashtraAssemblyPolls #ObserverDiaries
#DidYouKnow In one centre in Dharavi, #Mumbai, there are as many as 58 polling booths. That must be a record of sorts. Each polling booth covers about 1200-1300 voters. We came to know that during a videoconference with Election Commission. #ObserverDiaries #MaharashtraElections
On my way to Shirdi for my onward flight to #Chennai! Farewell, Jalgaon, till we meet again on November 18th for the final reconciliation of accounts of candidates, after accounting for the expenditure they would have incurred on the days of polling and counting. #ObserverDiaries
Well, the interesting development was my appointment for the first time as Strong room Observer by ECI after the completion of my duties as Expenditure Observer. This was done as there was a shortage of General Observers who normally perform this duty. #ObserverDiaries
It was interesting to see how the Returning Officers and their staff worked round the clock for 2 days from the time of handing over of polling material to polling officers to receiving them after the polling and arranging their safe custody in strong rooms. #ObserverDiaries
The communication and logistics arrangements on the poll day is mind-boggling despite the technology - transportation of polling parties, security deployment, keeping track of EVMs and VVPAT machines which may malfunction and arranging for alternate machines etc. #ObserverDiaries
Once the polling finishes at 6PM, the polling staff in each booth have to pack and seal the equipment carefully while the presiding officer has to record all the details in his diary including the number of voters, number of votes polled and polling percentage. #ObserverDiaries
The diary of the presiding officer of the booth is an extremely important document as it contains a complete account of the polling during the day, including unusual events or any malpractices, failure of EVMs or VVPATs and the replacement of the faulty machines. #ObserverDiaries
Each piece of poll equipment handed over to the polling staff has a unique serial number, which is recorded carefully in the distribution centre. And the details of the new equipment which replaces the faulty equipment is recorded by the presiding officer. #ObserverDiaries
The polling staff are then transported back to the collection centre in same buses nominated for the purpose. The sealing of equipment is checked and so are presiding officer's diaries and other important records, by the nominated staff at the collection centre. #ObserverDiaries
The polling staff return to the collection centre right from 6.30PM right up to 9PM, depending on the distance of the polling booth from the collection centre. The collection process and the scrutiny of equipment and records by the staff can go upto 10PM. #ObserverDiaries
Once the collection process is over, the EVMs (consisting of the control unit, the ballot unit and the VVPAT) are then moved to the strong room. The strong room is perhaps the most important structure in the election process as it secures the election equipment. #ObserverDiaries
The Strong Room is a large room in any educational institution, public building or a public godown, which can accommodate the all the EVMs at one place. Firstly, it has to be a strong structure. Secondly, all windows and ventilators have to be sealed completely. #ObserverDiaries
Thirdly, CCTVs have to be fitted in to cover every part of the room. Fourthly, it has to be inspected and certified by the paramilitary force which will guard the building till the counting day. It is also open for inspection by the reps of the political parties. #ObserverDiaries
And most importantly, all the electrical equipment in the room should be connected to one main switch. This is obviously to prevent any short circuit accident. The main switch is put off after the strong room is sealed with only the CCTVs functioning inside. #ObserverDiaries
The space for each EVM is marked out in the Strong Room according to the serial number marked on the equipment. All EVMs are kept in the space marked for it and after the polling is over, the sealed EVMs find their way to the same place in the Strong Room. #ObserverDiaries
Once the polled EVMs are placed in the strong room, it is inspected thoroughly by the Returning Officer, Observer, Commandant of the CPMF guarding the Strong Room & even by the candidates to ensure that all the sealed EVMs are there and put in the correct place. #ObserverDiaries
The Strong Room is then securely locked and sealed by the election staff, in presence of the Observer, the Commandant and the reps of the political parties, who can also put their seal if they want. In my case, the entire process finished as late as 0245 hrs. #ObserverDiaries
Even during my over two decades of railway service, work has never compelled me to go to bed at 3AM. Special Counting Observers are then appointed for each constituency to oversee process of removal of the seal of Strong Room and monitoring the counting process. #ObserverDiaries
My task also involved verification of reports of Sector Officers (in charge of 8-10 booths) and Micro Observers (nominated to check specific booths) and a sample check of reports of the Presiding officers & read out the verification to reps of political parties. #ObserverDiaries
Once my work was over in Chalisgaon, where I was given the additional charge of Strong Room Observer, I made the 3-hour drive to the airport at Shirdi where I had to board this Spice Jet flight back to Chennai. And now you have already seen the #ElectionResults! #ObserverDiaries
During my election duty in Jalgaon, I have these gentlemen to thank for their help - Mr.JawaharKakade, my Liaison Officer (DE in PWD), Satish, my PSO (an ex-serviceman from MLI, who was posted in Siachen during the Kargil war and Raju Mahajan, the vehicle driver. #ObserverDiaries
Now that the elections are all over, let me take you around Jalgaon and its surroundings. This is the beautiful top class Mahatma Gandhi Udyan, created by the Jain Irrigation Systems, whose patriarch, Bhawarlal Jain, is a great patron of Gandhian thought. #ObserverDiaries
The great walking and jogging tracks, the lawn area, children's arena and an open air gym, besides a small enclosure devoted to Gandhiji, make this a top class park. The fitness consciousness is amazing for a small city like Jalgaon and this park incentivises it. #ObserverDiaries
The Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd is the largest manufacturer of drip irrigation systems and is located on the outskirts of Jalgaon. Besides having transformed the economic and environmental landscape of Jalgaon, they also run a public school called Anubhuti (2nd). #ObserverDiaries
The company has also constructed a beautiful photographic and audiovisual museum dedicated to Gandhiji called Gandhi Teerth. It is a beautifully constructed green building and has created a beautiful narration of the life, times, books and thought of Gandhiji. #ObserverDiaries
Besides the beautiful building and museum, the campus has been constructed in a beautiful campus full of trees and well paved avenues. The company also has huge organic fruit orchards and also manufactures organic vegetable, fruit and dairy products. #ObserverDiaries
A drive outside Jalgaon makes one see the great agricultural diversity of the district. Here we see the crops of Jowar, Bajra, maize and cotton. Please zoom in to locate the difference between them. And all these photographs were taken within a range of 1 km. #ObserverDiaries
About 120km from Jalgaon lies the lesser known Patnadevi temple dedicated to the deity, Chandika Devi, constructed in the 12th century AD by a Yadava king. It is said to have been partially damaged by the raiding troops of Allauddin Khilji in late 13th century. #ObserverDiaries
Just beside the temple flows the Dongiri river. On the banks of the river once used to be the ashram of the famous mathematician and astronomer, Bhaskaracharya, who is said to have written Siddhanta Shiromani in this place. This is what remains of his ashram. #ObserverDiaries
A short distance from the Patnadevi temple lies this beautiful waterfall called Kedar Kund, right in the centre of the forest, which is to be reached through adventurous jeep and bike rides in the dense forest. A good monsoon has made this place more beautiful! #ObserverDiaries
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