Even as voter registration has been encouraging this time around, the state wing of the Election Commission is flummoxed by the attitude of government employees, who are citing trite reasons to shirk duties.
Where the services of 5.5 lakh employees are needed for election work, many of them are approaching the authorities with commonplace excuses – “going on summer vacation”, “cousin’s wedding”, etc - to avoid poll duty.
Irked by the absenteeism of employees, Mumbai city collector Shaila A has initiated action against 2,844 employees. Notices have been served to these officials before any action is taken, the collector said.
Under Section 134 of the Representation of People’s Act, officials who refuse election duty can face action in the way of cases registered against them. “For the 48 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state, some 5.5 lakh employees are required to oversee that elections go smoothly.
Even though the state has some 18 lakh employees on its rolls, it has become a difficult task to requisition the services of the required number of staff,” said a senior official from the election department.
Some are exempt
Recently, the government requested the state election officer to exempt officials from sales tax department because they were engaged in assessment of returns filed for value-added tax (VAT), given that it’s the fiscal-end. But only senior officials will be relieved, while sales tax inspectors will be delegated poll duty.
Similarly, officials from the state excise department, too, were exempt from duty, since they are busy collecting details of sale figures of liquor, as is mandated by the EC.
In the run-up to the elections, poll panel monitors the production and sale of liquor across the state to check if liquor is being used to woo voters. The excise department has to submit a comprehensive statement to it.
The EC has asked the state to depute teachers from government-aided schools for poll duty. Services of central government employees in Mumbai have also been sought for the purpose, as the entire Mumbai metropolitan region requires 60,000 employees – 20,000 for the two Lok Sabha constituencies in Mumbai city alone, sources said.
Number of officials needed for poll duty in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR)
Number of officials needed for the two Lok Sabha constituencies in the city
Number of constituencies in the state
Number of staff needed for elections in the state