KARNATAKA

Police, officials left out of elections

SENTINELS OF DEMOCRACY: Policemen guarding a polling station at Mahalakshmi Layout on Thursday.

SENTINELS OF DEMOCRACY: Policemen guarding a polling station at Mahalakshmi Layout on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: — PHOTO: Sampath Kumar G.P.

Staff Reporter

16,000 policemen, 10,000 government employees posted for poll duty

BANGALORE: He has been guarding the polling booths in every elections that have been held in the State in his 23 years of long service. This man in khaki has seen many voters fighting with the polling officials over their loss of voting rights due to missing of names from the list.

Yet, this head constable, guarding booth in Shankarapuram coming under Bangalore South Lok Sabha constituency, has not voted ever since he joined the service. “I am 55 now and have been in service for 23 years. I have never voted because I am always on election duty,” said this policeman, who requested anonymity.

“This is the denial of my constitutional right. In fact, a voter who came to cast his vote asked me about it,” he added and suggested that senior police officials should take the responsibility of providing them postal ballot.

“Senior officials give us duty orders but do not show interest in providing us postal ballot even though such a facility exists. Hardly a few make use of postal ballots,” said another constable at a booth in Bommanahalli. Bangalore alone saw 16,000 police personnel being deployed for election duty on Thursday besides about 10,000 polling officials who had been deployed to conduct elections. Similar was the fate of most policemen guarding polling booths. A constable from Dharwad, who was posted at Umarbagh Layout in Padmanabhnagar, said that he had come from Dharwad. “I will be going back on April 25 and voting in Dharwad is on April 30. But there is a possibility that I will be posted elsewhere on that day,” he said.

Most of the polling officers said they had not exercised their franchise because they had not got postal ballots in time.

“Elections are a farce for us since we will enable others to vote but end up losing our own,” an official said.

Many officials feigned ignorance about the facility of postal ballots and said they could not complete the formalities for the postal ballot.

However, Director-General of Police Ajay Kumar Singh told The Hindu that directions had been issued to unit level (superintendents of police and police commissioners) officers to arrange for postal ballots for all the policemen deployed for election duty. “I do not know how many have availed this facility,” he added.

As in the 2008 Assembly elections, the personnel involved in election duty had problems about facilities at the polling booths this time too.

The polling personnel in Vidyasagar Nursery School in Deevarajeevanahalli said they had a hard time in preparing the six polling booths that were filled with water following heavy rains on Wednesday.

“The roofs were leaking. We did not sleep the whole night as we were engaged in draining out the water,” a polling official said.

The polling personnel complained about absence of a proper toilet. “Somebody has to hold the door from outside when anybody goes in,” said a woman, who is one of the six women in the 24-member polling team. They have been provided with a can of water.

“We had to bring food last night from a darshini located 5 km away,” another polling personnel said.

“This is the reason we refuse to do election duty,” he said.

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