The ‘right to vote’ — the Election Commission’s multi-crore awareness drive to propel voters to get inked — seems to have cut little ice with the employees of the Punjab government.
Though the opposition Congress is crying foul over the “angry” state government staf f being prevented by the district administration from casting their vote in the high profile constituency of Amritsar saying they fear an “anti-incumbency” backlash, the overall state figures are dismal and show it to be more of a case of apathy of state employees to vote while they oversee others cast their vote. As the state goes to polls on Wednesday, over one lakh state government staff and 60,000 cops will be on poll duty. Of the one lakh, just 41% have opted to vote — 34,000 for election duty certificates (EDCs) and 7,000 for postal ballots. The figure among those in khaki is worse. Of the 60,000 cops who will patrol and have been deployed at polling booths across the state, just 15,000 have applied for EDCs or postal ballots.
Issued by the district returning officers, EDCs are granted to employees whose place of poll duty falls in the same parliamentary constituency of which they are voters while postal ballots are for those on duty in some other parliamentary seat. And this figure, in both the cases, says the Election Commission, is the highest ever. Punjab chief electoral officer VK Singh calls it “apathy” of the government staff.
“Some may be f aci ng t he problem of having three locations — their votes are in one constituency, they are on poll duty in another but living at a third place. For two locations, it works well. However, overall it seems to be just apathy. They had also been asked to apply for EDCs and postal ballots during the training programmes. It is through our awareness drive that the figure has reached even this mark and it is the highest ever,” Singh said.
Though the right to vote in our country cannot be enforced, the opposition Congress in Punjab c o nt e nds it is t he Election Commission’s job not to just spend crores on advertisements but facilitate the process by handing out EDCs and postal ballots to employees on poll duty of which the district administration has the entire database.