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Polling staff in Bengal district demand central forces, threaten to boycott polls

Polling staff in many parts of Bengal started demanding central forces even before the first phase of election was held on April 11.

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 28, 2019 23:38 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Dayerbazar Vidyamandir,Chapra,Bengal
The polling station, comprising five booths, is in the Krishnagar Lok Sabha constituency that goes to the polls on Monday along with Berhampore, Ranaghat, Asansol, Burdwan East, Burdwan-Durgapur, Bolpur and Birbhum.(PTI PHOTO)

Polling staff assigned for duty at Dayerbazar Vidyamandir school in Chapra in Bengal’s Nadia district on Sunday threatened to boycott poll duty on Monday if central forces were not deployed.

The polling station, comprising five booths, is in the Krishnagar Lok Sabha constituency that goes to the polls on Monday along with Berhampore, Ranaghat, Asansol, Burdwan East, Burdwan-Durgapur, Bolpur and Birbhum.

Sashwata Ghosh, the second polling officer deployed at the school, claimed that the polling staff was assured by the district administration that central forces would be deployed at the building. When the team reached the polling station on Sunday afternoon they found nine state armed police personnel but no central forces, said Ghosh.

“I called up the sector officer, who informed us that central forces will be on duty outside the polling stations and not in the booths. He virtually paid no heed to our concern. This is a very sensitive area. Unless central forces are deployed inside the polling booths, we will be forced to boycott duty on Monday,” said Ghosh, a primary school teacher.

Repeated attempts to contact the Nadia district magistrate failed as his mobile phone was unreachable. Bengal’s additional chief electoral officer Sanjay Basu said, “I am waiting for a report from the district administration.”

Polling staff in many parts of Bengal started demanding central forces even before the first phase of election was held on April 11.

Polling staff in as many as five districts in West Bengal have staged agitations on April 6 and 7, saying they would not report for duty unless central forces were deployed in every booth.

Citing violence that marked the Panchayat elections in 2018, the agitating polling staff said they would not risk their lives nor take insults that many faced when hooligans tried to rig rural polls in several districts.

At many places, the agitators carried posters that said polling staff do not want to face the same fate as Rajkumar Roy, a school teacher whose body was found near a railway track at Raigunj in North Dinajpur district during Panchayat polls in May last year. Roy was presiding officer at a polling station set up in a school building. While police said Roy was run over by a train, his family and friends alleged foul play.

First Published: Apr 28, 2019 23:38 IST

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