They help others to vote but no time to cast theirs

Many officials are serious this time about exercising postal option

For the past three elections held in Delhi, including the ones for the municipal corporations in 2012, Hari Om Sharma has been on election duty. Deployed in the media block of the Delhi Election Office this time, the middle-aged man has not failed to exercise his right to choose his representative despite being on duty even on the day of the polls.

“When I have been working for months just to facilitate others to vote, why will I deny myself this right?” he says.

Officials in the election office echo the sentiment. “It will be like organising a wedding and not having dinner,” says Arun Gupta, in-charge of postal ballots at the office. Like Hari Om Sharma, many government employees, including teachers, policemen and clerks on election duty, who ensure that Delhi voters get to exercise their franchise, yearn to vote by pressing the button on the EVMs as they only get to vote through the paper ballot.

There are some who do not even cast their vote through the postal ballot.
Constable Harish, who was posted in Rohini in the last parliamentary elections, could not vote. “The stress diverts our attention from casting the ballot ourselves,” he says.

But this time, things may be different. “Copies of our election voter cards have been taken by the election office and this time it seems there is a focus on ensuring that we do vote,” says Constable Kailash Khatri.

The postal ballot, as always, will come to the rescue of thousands of policemen and other election staff who will vote a few days before the rest of the Delhi voters exercise their franchise on December 4.

Almost one lakh government employees on election duty are eligible for voting through the paper ballot.

While the electoral participation of most of these people has been dismal so far, the Delhi Election Commission is seeking to bring them under the democratic voting process in larger numbers this time.

“These people will be able to vote through the postal ballot, a system by which we send them the ballot paper by post and they return it after voting for the candidate of their choice,” says Gupta.

Many others will also be given the choice of collecting their postal ballot paper when they attend training camps ahead of the elections.

For those whose duty falls in their own constituency, they will be given election duty certificates, which will enable them to cast their votes through EVMs.

Gupta himself has never missed an opportunity to cast his vote, even if it means through the postal ballot system. This will be the third time he will be voting this way. But he rues the lack of awareness among many other employees. “Hopefully, this time there will be more awareness due to the efforts of the Election Commission,” he says.

The EC has asked government departments to create a database of all employees who will be on election duty so that it is easier to issue them their voter identity cards.

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