January 29, 2017 1:33:54 am
WITH the civic elections just round the corner, government staff are burning midnight oil to complete poll preparations on time. While many of them expressed excitement saying they loved the experience of election duty, some disapproved. Sharing the experience of election duty, a teacher from PMC school said, “We consider this duty as our sacred national duty and very much willing to do it. But higher officers should consider a few things. Many a times woman teachers or elderly ones are given duties at remote locations, which become difficult for them and could hamper the work.”
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On the night before polling day, it is mandatory to stay at the polling centre. This becomes a huge problem for some staff on poll duty. They complain about “lack of arrangements for food and other facilities like water and lavatories” as major concern while on election duty. The food on the polling day is arranged by the Election Commission, which has its own issues with logistics and access.
They also have to follow the instructions about not to take undue favours from local political activists and candidates. One of the staff members said that they take help from local people. “It is merely on humanitarian grounds and never meant to influence the polling staff,” the staff member said.
A woman headmaster, with experience of handling more than 10 elections, had a valuable suggestion: “At the polling booths, the polling agents of candidates are present and watch the process keenly. Even a very minor issue might turn into a sensitive one. The teachers with lack of administrative experience may not be capable of handling it all the time. So the presiding officer should be from the administrative background in order to handle tense situations tactfully.”
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She added, “The key is to keep calm, have patience and follow the procedure very strictly.” Pramod Jadhav, a young inspector in sales tax department, who did his first election duty during the last general elections, said, “I was excited to be part of this national duty. It was a great experience.”
After the polling is done, another big task awaits and that is of depositing the voting machines back safely at the collection centres. The collection centres are where all the EVMs are collected after the polling is over. Almost all of them suggested a better management at the collection centres. Some of them recalled that polling staff were forced to stay until late in night to deposit the EVMs and other records at collection centre. This can be managed in a better way to save time and avoid unnecessary hassles.
Dr Sandip Shinde, a sales tax officer had all praise for the election duty. “It is a good opportunity to learn and contribute our bit to the nation’s democracy,” Shinde, who has spent more than a year on election duty, said.
“The staff has important role in conducting elections in free, fair and fearless environment. They do their job braving all the odds. The State Election Commission (SEC) tries its best to ensure that they do not face any inconvenience,” Jagdish More, spokesperson of SEC, said.
It is mandatory for the staff on election duty to comply with the order strictly. According to Section 28A of Representation of Peoples Act 1951, this staff is treated to be on deputation to the election commission and are under the direct control and authority of the commission. District Collector exercises the control over the staff on behalf of the commission.
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