Poll officials denied due payment, RTI documents reveal

Peculation slur on Mairang SDO

SHILLONG: Almost four months after the 2013 Assembly election in the State, glaring corrupt practices during the election process was unearthed on Friday through RTI findings, which revealed misappropriation of huge amount of funds allocated by the Election Commission of India (ECI) to the State Election Department.

The documents obtained through RTI filed by one Fairson Kharjana, the presiding officer of Mawiong polling booth under Mairang constituency during the February 23 election, revealed that about Rs 3,67,200 was misappropriated by the Office of the Mairang Sub-Divisional Officer (Election) for Mairang and Mawthadraishan constituencies.

Kharjana had file an RTI application with the Office of the Sub-Divisional Officer (Election), Mairang in relation to the rate of payment to staff deployed in training classes and for attending duty on the polling day and counting day.

The RTI findings indicated that the State Election department had failed to act according to the direction given by the Election Commission of India with respect to the payment due to the staff deployed on election duties.

“As instructed by the ECI, I should get a payment of Rs 2000 for eight days as a presiding officer and Rs 100 per day at the polling station for lunch on February 22 and 23, but I, along with other presiding officers, were paid only Rs 1000 which indicates that Rs 1200 each has been denied to each one of us by some unknown officials,” Kharjana stated.

For each polling station, the government had sanctioned four persons-one presiding officer, two polling officer and one class IV and as per the rate of remuneration issued by the ECI each presiding officer or counting supervisor should get Rs 250, polling officers of counting assistants are entitled to Rs 175 and Class IV (third polling party) at Rs 100 per day for eight days.

In addition to this, the ECI directive mentions that the staff should be provided with packed lunch and light refreshment at the rate of Rs 100 per head per day for two days i.e. on February 22 and 23. In case of difficulty in providing packed lunch, a cash payment of Rs 100 per head should be made. The ECI also mentioned that the rates recommended are minimum rates.Kharjana, a teacher at the Mid Changdong Secondary School at Lawbraton in Kynshi, West Khasi Hills said that as per the direction of the ECI, eight days was the maximum number of days for the staff to perform their election duty – four days for training classes (on Jan 28, Feb 1, Feb 13 and Feb 15) and another four days (from February 20-23) for collecting materials and for attending polling duty.

“But the RTI documents revealed that payment for all the staff was made for only four days (field work) amounting to only Rs 1000, Rs 700 and Rs 400 for presiding officer, polling officer and class IV respectively instead of the total of Rs 2200, Rs 1600 and Rs 1000 respectively,” Kharjana asserted.

From each polling station, the SDO office of Mairang had deducted the amount of Rs 3600 and since Mairang sub-division had two constituencies – Mairang and Mawthadraishan – with as many as 102 polling stations (52 in Mairang and 50 in Mawthadraishan), the total amount misappropriated by the Mairang SDO would roughly work out to Rs 3,67,200, Kharjana added.

In this regard, Kharjana had written a complaint letter to the Election Commission of India on June 12 seeking immediate intervention and action against the SDO Mairang for violating the directions and orders issued by the EC during the election process.

“I filed this RTI not because I want the remaining payment of Rs 1200 but because I don’t want the same corrupt practices to continue in the coming elections where rich officers would suppress their staff,” Kharjana said while urging upon all the affected staff deployed on election duty to come forward and voice out their concern and fight for their rights.

Kharjana also stated that if the ECI failed to take actions against such corrupt officials, the staff would be compelled to boycott the next election, while stating that “The law applies to all and we will not allow such practices to continue in future because the affected people will be the staff who have to spend more than the actual payment on journey fares and food.”

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