Thousands of ex-servicemen, who were invited for election security, were in for a rude shock on Monday when they were informed of a cut in remuneration.

While some preferred to abstain from election duty, police had to persuade many others to take up the offer after the government hurriedly revised the order and restored the remuneration given in the previous election.

However, many ex-servicemen who were expected to report to work on Monday afternoon did not turn up till later in the day, police sources said. Ex-servicemen were paid in two categories in the previous election.

While Junior Commissioned Officers got Rs.350 plus Rs.60 as food allowance per day, other ranks got Rs.300 plus Rs.60 per day. Days ahead of the polling date (April 13), the government issued an order cutting the food allowance of Rs.60 for both categories. For other ranks, the remuneration of Rs.300 per day was reduced to Rs.275.

When 2,000-odd ex-servicemen who came to take up election duties in Vellore were told of the revised pay on Monday, they questioned the rationale behind the cut at a time when prices had gone up.

The ex-servicemen who have to stay at the polling booths in different districts allotted to them for three days with minimum facilities also wondered how they would manage without food allowance.

However, Superintendent of Police (Vellore) T.S. Anbu and other officials persuaded them to consider the offer as it was more for a national cause.

Pride in wearing uniform

“Adding to their woes was the order that ex-servicemen should work in plainclothes. They take pride in wearing uniform...they did not want to work without it,” a senior police officer said.

As ex-servicemen threatened to boycott election work en masse, the government revised the orders. First the original pay was restored and then they were allowed to wear uniform while on election duty.

“But it was late as many had left by then. For instance, Chennai Police were sanctioned a strength of 1,600 ex-servicemen. Only 500 persons had reported for work till Tuesday evening. A similar situation prevailed in Dharmapuri and Ramanathapuram districts where many ex-servicemen have preferred not to work for the elections,” the official said.

Large presence in districts

There is a large presence of ex-servicemen in Vellore, Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri, Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram districts and police depend on their support during large security exercises such as the elections.

Apart from local police, Tamil Nadu Special Police, Armed Reserve and the Central Para-Military Forces, the police were permitted to rope in the services of ex-servicemen, Home Guards, NCC cadets and NSS volunteers, the sources added.