The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Poll work takes its toll
- 'Overworked' officers try to wriggle out of ghost hunt

Feb. 19: Babus not used to sweating it out in government offices are crying off election duty, unable to bear the rigours of hunting out ghost voters along with routine duties.

The Ranaghat-I block development officer (BDO), Paresh Chandra Daw, wrote to Nadia district magistrate Rajesh Pandey recently, pleading with him to relieve him of election duty as he felt he was 'unfit'.

The 45-year-old BDO, who is also the district's electoral registration officer, had been served with a showcause notice under instructions from an Election Commission observer earlier this month as hundreds of complaints regarding bogus voters in Ranaghat were not attended to.

In his reply last week, Daw sought release from election-related work.

'My health is failing and I cannot bear the pressure. So, please relieve me from poll- related work.Besides election work, I have a lot of other responsibilities as a BDO. I cannot take this pressure any more,' he reportedly wrote.

Pandey discussed the 'issue' (the mounting pressure of poll work) with other senior district officials and 'conveyed the matter to the chief electoral officer', requesting him to relieve Daw.

'We want efficient officers for the ongoing revision of electoral rolls. Ability to complete work within a deadline is an essential requisite for a BDO,' the district magistrate said.

Daw refused to comment. 'I have written to the DM. I have nothing else to say,' he said.

On the night of February 11, Nabagram BDO Sushil Kumar Pramanick consumed poison after Murshidabad district magistrate N. Manjunatha Prasad admonished him for arriving late for a meeting.

Pramanick, 58, had said from his hospital bed the following day that he was finding it difficult to take the pressure. Pramanick has been transferred to Barasat in North 24-Parganas.

The chief electoral officer, Debasish Sen, admitted in Calcutta that officers were working under pressure and his office had received some reports in this regard.

'No doubt there is pressure. We are trying to help with some extra people, but work to clean up the electoral rolls will go on and the officers have to deliver,' Sen said.

Officials said besides working on the revision and their usual work, the BDOs are having to look into the utilisation of funds for various projects as the financial year is coming to an end.

'There is tremendous pressure on government officials associated with election-related jobs as they have to perform their day-to-day office job and allot funds for all pending projects by March 31. This multiple responsibility is really telling on officers all over Bengal,' said Rupen Chowdhury, convener of the state Civil Service (Executive) Association.

The association will send a memorandum to the Election Commission enlisting its grievances.

The commission had earlier rapped government officials in the state for being lax in poll-related work.

Sen left for Delhi today for a poll panel meeting that several senior state officials will also attend.

Chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb, home secretary Prasad Ranjan Roy, director-general of police S.C. Avasthy and Calcutta police commissioner Prasun Mukherjee will brief the commission about the law and order situation across the state and discuss the execution of non-bailable arrest warrants.

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