Preparing for the nationwide Pulse Polio campaign that begins on January 29, the district immunisation officers (DIOs) in Punjab are in a tizzy following the poll announcement.
The three-day drive falls just before the assembly polls scheduled for February 4 in Punjab.
With uncertainty looming over availability of manpower, transport and machinery, which is being moved for election purposes, all DIOs met at Chandigarh recently. In the meeting, the officials urged the state health officials to take up the matter with the Election Commission of India, seeking exemption for the health staff from poll duty.
Sources said multiple health workers (MHWs), sanitation inspectors, clerical staff and even class-4 employees are being deputed on various poll duties. Besides the manpower, computers and allied machinery and transport facilities are also deployed for election purposes.
MHWs, who are deputed as booth level officers (BLOs) on poll duty, work as vaccinators during the polio drive. They along with auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs), Asha workers and nursing students play a key role during the drive.
A plethora of poll duties will keep these health workers busy in the coming days. These include distributing voter ID cards to people and voter guidance cards to polling booths, attending several training workshops and completing supplementary voting lists.
“With the shortage of manpower and vehicles, it will be difficult to hold the Pulse Polio campaign,” said Jalandhar DIO Tarsem Singh. “We have shared our reservations with higher officials, but no decision has been taken as of now,” he said.
Even during the nationwide Pulse Polio migratory campaign on September 25 last year, health workers in Jalandhar were put on election work related to changes in voter lists. The health department had reportedly approached the deputy commissioner, who had relieved the health staff.