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On CM turf, EC norms fail: teachers on poll duty

Friday 28 April 2006, by ROY*Bidyut

KOLKATA, April 27 : The Election Commission’s efforts to rid the state’s poll machinery of its alleged bias and scientific tuning to rig ballots had limited success. Or, so it seemed.

A random survey by The Indian Express in the CM’s constituency-South Kolkata’s Jadavpur-in the third phase of the elections today revealed that school teachers formed an essential part of the polling teams on duty-something the EC had promised to avoid as far as possible. In fact, in a directive, the EC had expressly advised the state government and the Chief Electoral Officer to keep school teachers out of the teams, for a majority of them are part of the CPI(M) affiliated teachers’ associations and therefore, biased.

The former EC observer for Bengal, Afzal Amanullah too, in a report, had indicated that teachers played a crucial role in influencing the polling process. The survey showed that many of the polling booths in Jadavpur had at least one school teacher. The booths were no. 41, 48, 45, 45A, 42, 8, 55, 56 and 57. In booth no. 57, for example, a school teacher from Kakdwip was appointed as P-1, that is, he was “polling officer number one” after the presiding officer.

Again, in booth number 41, an assistant teacher from Pathar Pratima in Kakdwip was appointed P-1. So in booth number 45. And in booth no 48, an assistant teacher was appointed polling officer.

About 300,000 polling personnel are required to conduct the Bengal polls. But the teachers were mainly engaged in the release of EVM button, following which a voter can cast his votes.

When asked, Anand Kumar, deputy Election Commissioner in charge of the Bengal polls, avoided an answer. “The CEO, Bengal, would be the best person to comment on this,” he said. And this is what the Chief Electoral Officer, Debasish Sen, had to say: “Efforts were made not to appoint teachers as Presiding Officers. But there was nothing wrong in appointing teachers as other polling personnel”.

See online : The Indian Express

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