Tamil Nadu elections 2021 | Unenviable task for surveillance team members

During each poll season, flying surveillance teams (FSTs) and static surveillance teams (SSTs) have an unenviable task. From frayed tempers to ignorant people, they encounter different issues while checking vehicles for unaccounted-for cash, gifts and contraband.

Spot visits by The Hindu to some checkpoints threw light on the challenges they face. On Thursday night, a FST of revenue officials and police intercepted a car on the GST Road, Chennai. The driver and the passenger of the high-end vehicle threw their weight around for some time before the team pacified them and checked their vehicle. “Not all are like this. If the passengers are drunk, they create a ruckus. At times, drivers refuse to remove party flags from the vehicles but oblige after we tell them that we are empowered to take action. The Election Commission should make it clear that party flags can’t be seen on auto rickshaws and cars,” said a revenue official.

Each district has three FSTs, three SSTs and two video surveillance teams (VSTs) that work on three eight-hour shifts. Each team comprises six officials, including those from the police and other government departments.

Movement of cash

“The FSTs go around a constituency checking for movement of cash above ₹50,000 and gifts worth over ₹10,000 without documentation. The SSTs are stationed at checkpoints and check for violations. We also check for party flags installed in public places without permission of the Returning Officer. The VSTs record election expenditure, but their role has not started yet,” said an official of the Co-operative Department who is part of a FST in Vellore district.

A SST member from Tiruvallur district said vehicles from Andhra Pradesh had no clue about the election. “We explain the details to them, and they allow us to check the vehicles. Sometimes we stumble upon ‘gutkha’ and other banned products, which are also seized,” said the official.

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