The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Inaction scar on poll panel grace

Ranchi, Jan. 13: A visit to the office of the state election commission at Namkum on the outskirts of the state capital is enough to lose all hope for an early civic polls in the state.

There has been no polls for civic bodies for close to three decades and the state cabinet finally approved the rules this week. But if conditions at the state election commission office are any indication, chances of the poll this year appear seem negligible.

A group of 10 employees was busy playing cards under the winter sun while six others were engaged in an animated discussion over their future. One of the more senior officers strolled aimlessly in the corridors, apparently preoccupied with deep thoughts.

“We have nothing to do. And it is tough spending eight hours in the office doing nothing,” said an employee. “When there was a state election commissioner in the form of G. Krishnan, we had at least some work. Now even that is not there. So, we are whiling away time playing cards and getting a sun-tan,” he added.

Krishnan’s term came to an end on December 12 last year and a successor is yet to be found. Against the sanctioned strength of 30, the commission has 22 staff, with at least six of them employed on contract.

For an office without any work, the annual budget is Rs 72 lakh. But even after having spent Rs 3.5 crore over the past five years, the body has very little to show by way of work.

The day this correspondent visited the commission’s office, there was a call from the office of the chief secretary enquiring about the state of affairs in the office. Similar enquiries had been made on two earlier occasions, the employees confided.

But the enquiries this time might have more to do with speculation over the present chief secretary, M.K. Mandal, getting the coveted post, which has a tenure of three years or a retirement age of 62, whichever is earlier. Besides the name of Mandal, other names in circulation are of A.K. Mishra, Sunila Basant, Sushma Singh and T. Nandkumar.

Curiously, the state government has chosen to shift the secretary to the commission, Lalan Pandey, to the finance department.

Pandey, when contacted, conceded that the state election commission, too, can move the court if the state government fails to conduct the elections. But in Jharkhand, the commission has been content to play second fiddle to the state government.

The commission, claimed its officials, cannot be blamed for the delay in rural and civic polls since the basic work like reconstruction of wards, reservation rules and election rules are to be worked out at the level of the state government.

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