Why government servants fight shy of election duty

Government employees and teachers, who play a crucial role in the conduct of elections, are wary of poll duty because of a host of challenges they encounter during the exercise. Apart from facing difficulties in reaching polling booths in remote areas, non-availability of food in interior locations is a concern for employees, especially for those who are diabetic.

A Chennai college teacher said that her colleagues are unwilling to go on election work, despite officials from the Taluk office camping in the college.

“We are reluctant to go on election duty as we will know about the polling booth where we have been deputed only a day before the polling date. What if it is an interior place? Not just that, we are expected to find our way there without much help,” she pointed out.

In many cases, family members of government servants and teachers are urging them against going to polling booths since transport to those areas are not taken care by the Election Commission. Officials have to make their own arrangements to reach the booths.

Also, once the polling is completed, vehicles with paramilitary personnel would collect only the EVMs and officials have to find their way back home irrespective of what time the process is completed late in the day.“We are willing to work and it is our duty too but we should be treated properly,” said a government servant.

“Some of us are not used to election work. While we may be open to being trained, the Election Commission does not take care of our travel to the polling booth,” another teacher said.

A. Vincent Paulraj, general secretary of Tamizhaga Aasiriyar Kootani (TN Teachers’ Federation), said those involved in election work after upon being intimated about their duty area, are expected to reach the booth by that afternoon. “From then to till the end of the elections, we are supposed to take care of food though the money would be reimbursed later,” he said.

Since the Election Commission prefers senior government employees and teachers there is an attendant issue that needs to be dealt with. “Most of them have diabetics and heart problems,” said M. Anbarasu, general secretary of Tamil Nadu Government Employees Association and claimed. “It is natural for them to have food on time. But, the Commission doesn’t provide food for them the whole day of polling.”

Casting of postal vote is another issue that is bothering some government employees. “If we are posted to another Parliamentary constituency, we should follow several procedures to cast our postal vote,” he said.

If those involved in election work are deputed to areas within the same Parliamentary constituency, they could just obtain the Election Duty Certificate (EDC) and cast their votes wherever they are posted for polling work, Mr. Paulraj suggested.

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