The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Contest election, escape poll duty

Tamluk, April 28: The CPM may not have offered tickets to schoolteachers to discourage them from contesting the panchayat election but the fear of poll duty has driven them to the fray in the two Midnapores.

About 2,000 teachers are contesting the election as Independent candidates in the twin districts, defying the CPM’s diktat. And have also launched a vigorous campaign urging the electorate to vote for them.

With so many teachers in the ring, the administration is left with no option but to bring in polling personnel from outside the districts, including Calcutta.

“We need nearly 17,000 personnel to man the 3,008 polling stations. But the problem this time is that most schoolteachers are not available for duty,” said Anil Verma, the district magistrate of East Midnapore.

Verma said teachers constitute a major part of the 2,400 Independents in the district who have put in their nominations. “We have nothing to do if teachers en masse are keen on contesting the poll. Everybody, after all, has a right to enter the fray,” he added.

The situation in West is much the same.

Officials confirmed that there are 50 teachers among the 200 Independents contesting at Binpur block alone. Officials said the trend is apparent in almost all the blocks.

Many of the teachers admitted that they had chosen to contest the poll to avert “hassles of poll-related duties”.

“Who will take responsibility if something happens to us on the polling day. That is why, many of us have decided to contest the poll as Independents,” said Samad Das, a teacher from Tamluk.

Achinta Mohonta, a teacher from Belpahari, pointed out that they were not in favour of the poll duties for the “meagre amount” that is offered.

“There is life risk for us if we are appointed polling officers in the areas infested with the Naxalites or Jharkhand Party (Naren Hasda) activists,” he said.

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