Trials and tribulations of polling personnel

Some polling stations where they had to stay lacked basic facilities like toilet and water

An analysis done on the arrangements made in the polling stations for the overnight stay of the polling personnel, toilet and water facilities for them including women, brings to light the laudable service they have done despite the pathetic condition in which they were forced to work.

After allowing the teachers to attend the first two training sessions in their taluk headquarters, they were asked to come to the Assembly segment where they would serve on the poll day for attending the third and the fourth sessions of training.

“When I, working in Thoothukudi, was posted at Kovilpatti, I went there for the third phase of training held on April 3 after attending the first two sessions in Thoothukudi. Nothing happened there (during the third phase) after our signatures were obtained around 12 noon. The trainees left the training centre premises one by one as no official was there to give instruction of any kind. Again, we went there on Monday to collect the poll duty orders. What is the harm in conducting the third phase of the training also in Thoothukudi itself? What’s the reason behind obtaining our signatures alone by asking us to come to Kovilpatti”, the teacher asked.

A woman teacher from Sattankulam, who is under medication for health issues, had to travel for about 130 km to attend this third phase training at Kovilpatti on April 3 and to commute similar distance to reach her home around 9 p.m. without learning anything.

Most of the women teachers who were posted in remote rural areas were left at the mercy of the villagers, who indeed, allowed them to stay in their homes the previous night and even offered them food. “Those who had to stay in the schools without toilet facility, had to plead with the locals for using their washrooms. The worst part was that the women teachers served in remote villages could not get proper transport to reach at least the nearby town to get the bus to reach their places after the EVMs were collected in the odd hours,” a woman teacher, who had been posted in a village beyond badly connected Radhapuram, said.

When a woman teacher working with a government-aided school in Palayamkottai landed at the booth in Government Higher Secondary School at Narasinganallur near here on April 5 for election duty, the sanitary worker cleaning the school ahead of the poll advised the teacher not to get into the toilet there in a hurry as a cobra used to visit the relatively cool lavatory.

Woman constable Sreeja, attached to the Marthandam police station, suffered snake bite when she was deployed in the booth in the government higher secondary school at Keeripaarai Rubber Estate and was admitted to the Kanniyakumari District Government Medical College Hospital.

Teachers, who were part of the ‘reserve team’, were kept in a private marriage hall at Kokkirakulam here where there was no water in the toilets on the day of polling. “It was a hellish experience… The officials checked our presence there for every one hour while we could not use the toilet as there was no water. The security there refused to switch on the motor even after repeated requests and complaints with the higher-ups,” said a woman teacher who was part of the ‘reserve team’.

Above all, the teachers’ main grievance is that the Election Commission should trust them first and post them for election duty in the Assembly constituency where they live.

“If a teacher dares to do something wrong and against the law while on poll duty, he or she cannot escape as the candidates’ agents will be there to watch the polling. Teachers know very well that any wrong thing they do will land them in a soup. Above all, reaching the polling station in the previous day of polling and returning home after the EVMs are safely handed over to the officials concerned will not be an easy affair even during odd hours. If the ECI trusts us, it will encourage most of us to be part of the election duty,” said T. Manoharan, general secretary, Tamil Nadu Postgraduate Teachers’ Association, who, on behalf of his Association, has decided to approach the High Court to alleviate these genuine grievances of the teachers.

“We’re always ready to serve as it is our democratic duty and service to the nation… Our only request is that please ensure polling personnel-friendly arrangements in the polling stations so that our teachers, especially women teachers will serve even during odd hours,” he says.

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