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An old trick fails even before it could take off

— FILE PHOTO

SOMEBODY MUST DO IT: The State Election Commission will deploy 32,382 presiding officers and 1.61 lakh booth personnel in the forthcoming taluk and zilla panchayat elections.

The State Election Commission's (SEC) decision to schedule the elections to taluk and zilla panchayats a day after Christmas and on the last day of the year appears to have poured cold water on the year-end plans for government employees and teachers.

Many are dreading the prospect of being drawn for election duty on December 26 and 31, the days where Christmas celebrations stretch on to New Year's and when everyone's in a holiday mood.

Understandably, the SEC has been flooded with requests from government employees seeking exemption from election duty on several grounds including health, marriage and pregnancy.

Two KAS officials, who turned up at the SEC office last week, were discussing how they could escape being posted as presiding officers in the districts for poll duty, little realising that this reporter was an unwitting eavesdropper.

One said he managed to dodge poll duty during the last gram panchayat elections owing to a death in the family. This time too he was working at another alibi.

‘They're our own'

He told his fellow KAS official that he had a neat plan this time too.

“I can get a certificate from a doctor saying I have to undergo a bypass surgery. In any case, Minto, Kidwai and Bowring Hospitals belong to our department. It would not be a problem,” he said.

He was warming to the theme when an SEC official intervened and introduced this reporter to the KAS officials, apparently in a bid to stop further conversation on their strategies to evade poll duty. The two officers got the message immediately and switched over to discussing departmental works.

However, their optimism was short-lived.

The two, who had come to check the list of officials drafted for poll duty, were evidently crushed to find their names in the list. Clearly this was traumatising because unmindful of this reporter's presence, they requested a senior officer at the SEC to use his “good offices” to remove their names. But the SEC official wasn't moved.

As he deadpanned later: “Reluctance to do election duty is a common tendency among officials.”

Tailpiece

The SEC will deploy 32,382 presiding officers and 1.61 lakh booth personnel in TP, ZP elections. It has also principal secretaries and secretaries of various departments as observers. It has also roped in a large number of teachers for election duty.

This fortnightly column features incidents and situations in public spaces where the principal characters are unaware they are being observed by our reporters. NAGESH PRABHU

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