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Circle Officer Files Police Case Against DC For ‘Mental Harassment’ During Poll Duty

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GUWAHATI, May 8: A circle officer of Assam has filed a police complaint against the Nalbari district commissioner (DC), accusing the superior official of “mental harassment, public humiliation and threatening” during election duty.

Responding to the complaint, Nalbari DC Varnali Deka alleged that Paschim Nalbari circle officer (CO) Arpana Sarmah “neglected” her duty and “abandoned” the central election management site, set up at Government Gurdon Higher Secondary School, at 2 am without completing her job.

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Voting in Nalbari district, which is a part of Barpeta Lok Sabha constituency, took place in the third phase on Tuesday.

In her complaint, Sarmah alleged that she was entrusted with the responsibility of the issue and receipt counter of Tihu assembly and the order for that was issued on WhatsApp during the day itself.

“We were not briefed about anything about who was dealing with labour management etc,” she said, alleging that there was no briefing while issuing the election materials on Monday too.

Sarmah claimed in her complaint that the received materials were not carried back to designated places because of non-availability of labourers post-midnight after polling officials returned from their respective booths.

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“…when materials of only around seven polling stations of Tihu LAC were to be collected after 1 am, DC ma’am came and humiliated me and used slang words in front of officials. She tried to humiliate me on the ground that the trunks were still not taken to the designated places by labours,” she added.

According to the complaint, Deka continued to “abuse” Sarmah “verbally” when she stated that unavailability of labour at 1 am was beyond her control.

Sarmah mentioned in the complaint that she video recorded the conversation with the DC fearing an adverse effect on her career as the argument was related to smooth conduct of Lok Sabha elections.

Alleging repeated humiliation in front of junior staff, the circle officer said, “I continued to record her because I had to keep proof of the harassment inflicted on me by DC ma’am. I tried to end the conversation on several occasions by saying ‘Thank You etc’ but she continuously kept questioning.”

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Sarmah claimed that she then stopped recording on her phone and decided to carry the trunks herself with other staff, but Deka “attempted to snatch” her mobile.

“I told ma’am that she cannot touch my phone in an unauthorised manner and I literally fled away from the counters of 40-Tihu LAC,” she added, requesting the police to crosscheck it from the CCTV footage.

Sarmah then called her husband and fled towards Gurdon Tiniali as she was “scared and helpless” feeling that other colleagues may not be of much help in such a situation when a superior officer was involved.

“I felt as if someone was running from behind towards me,” she claimed in the complaint, which was filed at 2:09 am on Wednesday.

“Since I felt threatened, unsafe, therefore (my) husband and I rushed towards Nalbari police station to report the incident,” Sarmah said, urging the police to protect her along with her three-and-half-year-old daughter and family “from DC ma’am Nalbari”.

When contacted, Deka told PTI that the complaint is “false, baseless and imaginary” with an intent to “defame” her.

“Sarmah neglected her duty and abandoned her responsibilities at 2 am without completing the assigned job. The official process to take action against her has already been initiated,” she added.

Deka also claimed that by video recording inside an election material counter, the CO “vitiated” the atmosphere and “threatened” the security of the EVMs received from the polling booths.

Meanwhile, Nalbari Police Station officer-in-charge Arup Jyoti Baishya told PTI that an enquiry is going on and an FIR will be registered accordingly.

Sarmah in her complaint also alleged that she has been facing “extreme mental harassment” since January and she was constantly being “scrutinised” by Deka with “malafide intentions to fix blames” on her on the “flimsiest of grounds”.

The circumstances forced her to write to the Personnel Department on March 11 seeking extraordinary leave without allowance or “if my leave was not granted, then the same letter was to be treated as my ‘Resignation Letter’”, the complaint mentioned.

Sarmah said she withdrew the letter after persuasion by the staff, well-wishers and the Environment and Forest minister Chandra Mohan Patowary, who is the local MLA. (PTI)

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