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Paid leave to honour democracy

A chunk of shops and business establishments across Jharkhand will remain closed on respective polling days to encourage the aam aadmi to cast vote.

For the first time in 14 years, the working class will get a day’s paid leave as more than 400,000 trade entities in the state, including 20,000-odd shops in Ranchi, will down shutters on one of the three Thursdays of April 10, 17 and 24, when the parliamentary seat that they fall under goes to polls.

The Federation of Jharkhand Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FJCCI) on Monday decided that April 17 would be a paid holiday for employees in the capital. All associates will follow in FJCCI’s footsteps so that people can exercise their franchise at leisure.

FJCCI president Bikash Kumar Singh told The Telegraph that from Tuesday, April 1, the chamber would launch its own awareness programmes so that people do not bunk booths to enjoy a holiday at home. “People should understand that they will be paid to observe a day of democratic responsibility, not a holiday. By next week, one will see vote appeals at every shop and establishment,” he said.

Singh added that to take laggards to task employees would be asked to show the indelible ink on their index finger when they come to work the day after polling.

According to Election Commission rules and regulations, the voting time starts at 7am and ends at 4pm, which means some establishments might reopen in the evening. Hotels and restaurants are also mulling just a three-hour break to allow employees to cast their votes.

Mukesh Verma, the head of FJCCI’s sub-committee for hotels, said: “We are in the hospitality business and are not allowed to stay closed. So, employees will get a voting window.”

The private health sector, which has already been affected because patients are hit by unavailability of vehicles in the wake of elections, too will ask employees to take a short break to exercise their franchise.

Dr Anant Kumar, head of FJCCI’s sub-committee for health and nursing homes, said: “Health services would be affected if employees go on leave. As it is, number of admissions in every hospital has gone down and doctors are unwilling to give operation dates till the elections are over. We will allow hospital staff to take a break, cast their votes and come back.”

P.K. Jajoria, chief electoral officer of Jharkhand, lauded the FJCCI decision. “We hope business establishments adhere to the fiat,” he said.

Puja, the owner of Sweet 16 that sells dress materials and accessories for women on HB Road, Ranchi, said she would down shutters on April 17. “It is an important day for us. I will certainly cast my vote,” she added.

Paramjeet, who runs garment store Vogue in Upper Bazaar, echoed her. “My elder brother and I run the shop along with two employees. All of us will exercise our franchise along with our families. So, no business on April 17,” he said.


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