The Election Commission (EC) has ‘bypassed’ its own directive in the run up to the parliamentary polls. At a time when the commission is making efforts to ensure the proper implementation of the model code of conduct, it has assigned election duty to government officers who have six or less than six months of service left.
As per the EC instruction vide no. 437/6/2006-PLH-III-IV 20-2-2006, any official who is due to retire in six months should be exempted from poll duty. According to the EC rules dated February 20, 2006 ‘Any officer who is due to retire within coming six months will be exempted from the purview of the abovementioned directions of the Commission. Further such officers may not be engaged for performing election duties during elections.’
But in Dhanbad, the EC has deployed several officers for poll duty who will retire in two or less than two months.
Rajendra Gope, an employee of Coal Mines Provident Fund Organisation (CMPFO), has only two months left to retire, but he has been assigned election duty.
Similarly, Rani Pathak, a teacher of Mines Quarter Middle School, is scheduled to retire in June but she has been given poll duty.
Her job is to distribute voter slips door to door.
Like Gope and Pathak, there are several government employees who are due to retire in less than six months, but have been assigned poll duty.
A CMPFO officer, RN Mishra, has only four months of service left, but he has been put on double duty this election. He has been deployed in the media cell from March 20 and would also have to perform duty as a polling officer on April 24.
“I ran from pillar to post for seeking exemption, but no one paid any heed. The in-charge of the media cell said I would have to discharge triple duty if needed.
Finally, I wrote to the DC today for justice,” he said.
However, sub-divisional magistrate-cum-assistant returning officer (ARO) of Dhanbad Abhisekh Srivastav said there is no such guideline in this regard. It is only a rule that poll duty is not generally assigned to staff, who have less than six months of service left.
But they can be kept in the reserve and put on paperwork.
“As there is a convention to assign the last posting of a government employee in his own district before retirement, similarly there is a practice that generally employees due to retire within six months are not put on poll duty. But it is not an EC directive,” he said.
However, additional chief electoral officer of Jharkhand KK Soan said the onus does not lie with the EC directly. “It is the lookout of the departments and the districts concerned. The district election officers send requisition for poll staff to different government departments.” He, however, mentioned that the list of polling officials could be rectified on request.
(With inputs from Sanjoy Dey)