MY KOLKATA EDUGRAPH
ADVERTISEMENT
regular-article-logo Friday, 31 May 2024

Sightless teacher assigned polling duty: Samir goes from pillar to post to avoid election job

Samir Dhara, a 50-year-old Bengali teacher of Paschimpara High School in Hooghly’s Pursurah, on Thursday received a letter from Hooghly district election cell, asking him to attend the polling personnel’s training on April 20 for presiding officers

Snehamoy Chakraborty Calcutta Published 23.04.24, 09:33 AM
Samir Dhara, the visually-challenged teacher, on his way to school riding pillion on his wife’s two-wheeler at Pursurah in Hooghly.

Samir Dhara, the visually-challenged teacher, on his way to school riding pillion on his wife’s two-wheeler at Pursurah in Hooghly. Ananda Adhikari

A 100 per cent visually-challenged schoolteacher is struggling to convince the Election Commission that he cannot perform the duty of a poll official.

Samir Dhara, a 50-year-old Bengali teacher of Paschimpara High School in Hooghly’s Pursurah, on Thursday received a letter from Hooghly district election cell, asking him to attend the polling personnel’s training on April 20 for presiding officers.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I was shocked when the headmaster of our school informed me about the election duty letter. I am visually challenged and cannot conduct elections as a poll official,” said Dhara.

Dhara, who comes from a family of marginal farmers, studied at Ramakrishna Mission Blind Boys’ Academy in Narendrapur and finished his master’s at Jadavpur University.

Dhara has been doing rounds of several offices to get his election duty cancelled. If he had not been exempted by the commission, probably he would be the only visually challenged presiding officer at any of 80,000-odd polling booths in Bengal.

A presiding officer is the key person responsible for conducting the entire
election process at a
particular polling booth with the help of three or four polling personnel assisting him. He has to lead the whole team, collect election materials, including EVMs, from the distribution centre a day before the polling day, and monitor every vote cast in his or
her booth on election day. The duty of a presiding officer ends with returning the EVM to the strongroom after completing the election process.

A presiding officer also has to fill up several forms, including the presiding officer’s diary in which an official reports any glitch in the election process, malpractice or anything untoward incident that happened in the booth.

A senior state government official, who has been handling elections for the past 15 years, was utterly surprised to know that Dhara has been assigned the duty of a presiding officer.

“Not only as a presiding officer, anyone who is visually challenged cannot
perform the duty of any polling personnel at a polling booth. I think the local administration should have a database about such employees before they serve appointment letters,” said the official.

According to the teacher, as soon as he received the letter, he first went to the local block development office with all of his testimonials to request to relieve him from duty.

“After waiting for around an hour, an employee asked me to visit the office of the sub-divisional officer in Arambagh. In Arambagh, after waiting for three hours, I was asked to visit Chinsurah, the office of the district magistrate, who is the district election officer. I am fed up with such harassment,” said the teacher, who lives in a village in Pursurah, six km away from his school.

“My wife takes me to school on her scooter. Now, it is difficult for me to travel to Chinsurah, which is 56 km away from my home, to get the duty cancelled. That is why I have sent an email to the district election officer.”

The Hooghly district magistrate and district election officer Mukta Arya said she would immediately look into Dhara’s issue.

“We get the list of the employees from the head office, in the case of a school from the headmaster. I don’t know about the teacher (Dhara) and will look into his appeal,” said Arya.

Follow us on:
ADVERTISEMENT