By the daily protests, it seems the anti-incumbency sentiment is high among the government employees. By this argument of the Congress, most of them should be willing to come out and vote. But of Amritsar’s more than 10,000 employees, including police, on poll duty on April 30, just 7% have, so far, received election duty certificates (EDC) or postal ballots.
The deadline for applying for postal ballot is over, while there are two more days to go for applying for the EDC.
The 10,000-plus employees in Amritsar include nearly 2,000 policemen who will be on poll duty in booths or patrolling.
Till Saturday, just 475 government employees of Amritsar had been issued EDCs, which is allotted to staff deployed on election duty within the same parliamentary constituency but outside their home assembly constituency. They can use it to cast vote on the polling booth where they are on election duty.
A limited number of staff on election duty outside the parliament constituency are issued postal ballot. A total of 254 postal ballots have been issued to staff on poll duty outside Amritsar.
In neighbouring Gurdaspur, the figure for 7,000-odd government staff on poll duty is 642 for EDC and 147 for postal ballots.
Congress shoots complaint to EC
Smelling foul play, the Congress has shot a complaint to the Election Commission, alleging that the state employees are being prevented from exercising their right to vote. “The Election Commission is spending crores of rupees on motivating people to vote.
The government employees and cops are calling us, saying they have applied for the EDC/postal ballot but the same has not been issued.
Since they don’t pay their employees for months together and beat them up for staging protests, the state government fears a backlash, and so is preventing them from voting,” says Kapurthala MLA (member of the legislative assembly) Rana Gurjit Singh, who is managing Captain Amarinder Singh’s poll campaign in Amritsar.
“The district administration knows exactly how many government employees and policemen of Amritsar will be in the constituency on poll duty and how many outside.
What stops them from giving all of them the EDCs or postal ballots? Why has the job been left to the discretion of heads of the departments? While all government employees and policemen have been asked to fill form 12, which is an expression of interest to vote, their applications are being rejected and voter identity cards held back by their department heads.
The abysmally low number of EDCs issued, so far, shows that the employees are being denied their right to vote,” said Rana Gurjit Singh.
Cannot force anyone: Returning officer
District returning officer Ravi Bhagat says the Congress complaint is being looked into but the district administration cannot force the government employees to vote. “Voting in our country is not compulsory.
As the returning officer, it is my duty to offer them the two options. The government employees have been asked to fill form 12, which goes to the department heads concerned. After it is forwarded to us, we issue them the EDCs and postal ballots.
There is apathy to voting among the government employees and we are trying our best to change it. The state machinery is not biased. There are still two more days to go for applying for the EDC,” Bhagat said.
Amritsar senior superintendent of police (rural) Gurpreet Singh says more than 2,000 cops from Amritsar will be on poll duty on April 30 within the constituency. “Those from neighbouring districts have applied for postal ballot, of which 459 have been issued.
The policemen deployed from Amritsar have the option of the EDC and applications are still being received,” he said.
Trying our best,say EC officials
The Election Commission, which is claiming to have held many awareness and training camps on voting in Amritsar, says it is making all-out efforts to ask the state staff to vote. “If still they are not forthcoming, it is unfortunate. Usually the figure goes up in the last two days.
We have another training camp tomorrow (Sunday) and we will again motivate them to vote. We are looking into the complaints of employees applying for the EDC/postal ballot but not getting it,” said an EC official, requesting anonymity.