In a major decision, the field staff of Election Commission in the State has announced voluntary retirement from government services on Monday. The announcement coincided with the announcement of poll schedule for Panchayat elections by State’s Chief Electoral Officer.
The reasons cited by Association of Field Employees of Election Department (AFEED) for voluntary retirement include non-fulfilment of various posts at the District Election Officer (DEO) level, Election Registration Officer level and the Assistant Election Registration Officer level.
The field employees had been alleging “constant harassment, suppression and non-resolution of long pending genuine demands.”
Rising Kashmir had last month reported that State’s Election Commission was facing staff crunch with 50 percent of posts sanctioned and made mandatory by the Election Commission of India lying vacant even though AFEED was continuously raking up the issue.
At least 18 posts sanctioned by the ECI at the DEO level, 13 are lying vacant while at the ERO level, only one official is posted against sanctioned six posts.
At the AERO level among the one post sanctioned by the ECI, no official has been posted.
“We are working under the Superintendence and control of Election Commission of India and are meant for Assembly and Parliamentary Elections only. But in J&K State we are forced to conduct local body Elections that too with the meagre staff strength,” reads the statement issued by AFEED today.
It said the local elections including Panchayat, Municipal, GurdawaraPrabandhak Committees and cooperative are conducted by the State Election Commission having separate offices and staff like in other states.
“In absence of required staff strength, we are being forced to work day and night without availing Sunday/Holiday as bonded laborers to conduct all above elections. Due to round the clock work timings most of field staff is suffering from various psychological and other ailments including anxiety and depression,” it said.
“Such an approach of our department and the State Government towards field staff is a gross violation of human rights of employees as guaranteed under law,” it further said.
The AFEED said since last one year, they have been repeatedly requested and submitted series of representation concerning resolutions of their problems to CEOJK which however has resulted in nothing concrete.
“Except mere unfulfilled promises and false assurances nothing developed and none of our problems was resolved. Even we during past few months we held a day long protest and thereafter also submitted seven days protest leave but till date no action was taken, which really seems regrettable and disappointing,” states the AFEED letter addressed to State’s CEO ShaleenKabra.
The AFEED has also been demanding the removal of pay anomalies for various posts, citing that there would not be any major financial implication on the State budget as 50 percent of the salaries of the staff of the Chief Electoral Officer comes from the Government of India.
Sources said with the vacant posts at ERO level, the preparation and maintenance of electoral rolls across the assembly constituencies in the State had been hampered.