J&K government deploying women as polling officers
The process has set in motion in Jammu district. Officials in the revenue department said almost 30% of the staff being deployed for polls would be women.
The process has set in motion in Jammu district, comparatively the most peaceful belt of the state. Officials in the revenue department said almost thirty percent of the staff being deployed for polls would be women.
“We have a substantial number of females working in the government so we will be utilizing their services,” Shantmanu, Jammu divisional commissioner told ET. “We will make female staff deployments in the plain area of the constituency so that they do not face problems.”
For Jammu-Poonch constituency that goes to polls in the first phase on April 10, the total requirements of staff stands at 15314. Shantmanu said almost thirty percent of the staff would be females. So far 2000 of them have been identified.
Deploying women employees for holding elections is being considered a major development that reflects a change. Election Commission lacked local employees for conducting polls between 1996 and 2002. For all the elections in between, the government would offer special incentives to the UP’s Urdu-knowing employees who would conduct the exercise at an exorbitant cost. Incentives, that usually were not less than Rs 10,000 per head plus a huge insurance cover, the government would pay a good amount for managing their accommodation, security, transport and food. It started changing only in 2002 when a small section of local employees agreed to be part of the exercise.
The state assembly election of 2008 and the subsequent Lok Sabha election of 2009 was conducted by the local employees only. It is in its follow up that the state government has taken a decision of involving a section of the women employees in the exercise.
Pressing factors that led to the inclusion of women employees included the requirement of a lot of human resources. A senior official talking on the condition of anonymity said improved ECI supervision on the exercise that made mandatory deployment of flying squads, expenditure monitoring squads, video recording teams has strained the available male manpower. “That is why part of the staff would be sourced from female employees,” he said. Nowhere in the recent history have women employees been part of the poll conduct process for security and privacy reasons.
At least two employees would be deployed in every polling station. There are 2271 polling stations in this constituency and most of the stations falling in non-hilly and plain areas would see women polling officers.
Election Commission has directed the states to pay Rs 10 lakh for every death of a polling official. In case the death is caused by violent means, it would be Rs 20 lakhs.