The Telegraph
Tuesday , April 8 , 2014
CIMA Gallary

Poll duty for patients

- Medical body to clear applications for exemption

The district election office has assigned poll duty to government employees suffering from tuberculosis and heart diseases among other ailments.

This has happened though the office seeks a report, prior to the election, from different state government departments about the medical condition of the employees.

Uday Shankar Prasad (55), a junior accounts clerk in the water resources department, has been given poll duty despite suffering from tuberculosis for the past two years. Prasad’s colleagues said he cannot move on his own and his children have to accompany him to office everyday. “He also suffers from loss of vision, high blood sugar and high blood pressure,” says his colleague Taquirub. Prasad has applied for exemption of election duty.

Another person saddled with election duty is Roop Kamal, planning engineer in the building construction department. Kamal’s right leg is paralysed since birth. “How could the election office find me suitable for a job that requires moving in interior villages?” He was surprised to find heart and cancer patients queuing up at the election office to apply for exemption of poll duty.

Then there’s Sanjay Kumar Agrawal, commerce department head at Sri Arvind Mahila College who had underwent open-heart surgery and even mentioned it in red ink in the election office form.

AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies library attendant Balchand Mandal has been assigned poll duty despite an amputated right leg. He, however, blamed his institute’s administration. “They should have sent a separate letter to the poll office with details of those unfit for poll duty,” he said.

Asked how people who are unwell were assigned poll duty, R Lakshmanan, additional chief electoral officer, Bihar, said: “The district election office asks for a list of people from various departments with medical condition. We assign poll duty where medical condition is not very serious.” Pointed out that people seeking exemption were assigned duty, Lakshmanan said: “So far 40 per cent of those who sought exemption had not cited genuine reasons. Many foul cases have surfaced. We have constituted a medical board. A person seeking exemption on health grounds is granted it if a medical board finds the case genuine. We don’t force seriously ill people to do poll duty.”