In Red zone, officials look for excuses to skip polling duty | Ranchi News


Dumka: Polling personnel in Shikaripara block of Dumka district are a worried lot. Their worries are not unfounded as Shikaripara experienced Maoist violence during the in the two Lok Sabha elections killing nearly 10 people.
“My family is having sleepless nights ever since I was assigned poll duty in Shikaripara. The ambush by CPI (Maoist) rebels on a polling team in 2014 is fresh in their minds,” said an employee of the SKM University after attending an election training.
The authorities have claimed that elaborate security is in place ahead of the elections in Dumka district on Sunday, but that has done little to calm the polling officials in the area notorious as a Maoist den.
The Shikaripara assembly segment under Dumka Lok Sabha constituency has witnessed violence triggered by the rebels in assembly and parliamentary elections since 2009.
Among the first Maoist attacks during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, one policeman was killed and three members of a polling team were injured at Jodam Village near Talpahadi, around 8 km from Dumka.
In 2014, as many as 48 Maoists triggered a landmine blast targeting a bus with polling officials in it. Eight members of the polling team, including five security personnel, were killed and several injured in the incident.
The Maoists also attacked a police team killing Pakur SP Amarjeet Balihar and five other policemen on July 2, 2013, at Kathikund, 35 km from Dumka. The rebels ambushed Balihar’s cavalcade after triggering a landmine and fired indiscriminately. The SP’s driver and three of his bodyguards also died in the attack. Balihar was returning to Pakur after attending a meeting called by the DIG in Dumka.
Meanwhile, perceiving the nerves of polling staff who might have opted to refrain from joining poll duty in Shikaripara on medical grounds, the district administration has made it mandatory for them to undergo health examination by the medical board.
“Those with genuine health problems will be excused from poll duty,” Dumka DC-cum-returning officer Mukesh Kumar said. The administration has said punitive actions will be taken against those who desist from joining poll duty without any legitimate reasons.
“Earlier, the district administration took a lenient approach towards those ignoring poll duty, but this time, FIRs will be lodged against them,” a trainer conducting pre-poll lessons for the staff said.
However, officials still unwilling to join the poll duty have found the escape route by submitting applications claiming to have been injured in road accidents or being inflicted with diseases like measles.
“It is surprising that we have received around two dozen applications from officials seeking to refrain from poll duty on these pretexts which are being verified,” the training official said.

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