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State govt employees demand deployment of central forces in every polling booth in panchayat polls

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KOLKATA, June 25 (PTI): The forum of joint action committee of state government employees on Sunday demanded that Central forces be deployed in every polling booth in West Bengal in the panchayat polls slated to be held on July 8.

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The forum is a platform of 20 state government employees organisations.

The state government employees are put on election duty in different polls – assembly, Lok Sabha or local bodies –  conducted by the Election Commission of India or the State Election Commission respectively.

A spokesperson of the forum told reporters a five-member delegation met State Election Commission (SEC) officials during the day after over 100 state government employees marched to the SEC office threatening they won’t participate in the panchayat voting process if central forces are not posted in every booth.

Five-six representatives from the forum, consisting of around 20 state employees organisations belonging to the Left, Congress and BJP, went to meet a senior SEC official but the SEC did not give any concrete assurance.

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“The state election commission said we will ensure your safety during polling but that is not enough. We want assurance that central forces will be deployed in every single booth. The safety of every polling official is of paramount importance. The SEC asked for some more time and we have agreed. Let’s see,” the representative said after meeting the SEC official.

The SEC on Friday informed Calcutta High Court that it has requisitioned 485 companies of central forces in addition to 337 companies already asked for, taking the total to 822 companies for the panchayat polls.

The court had on June 21 directed the SEC to requisition more than 82,000 central forces personnel deployed during the 2013 panchayat polls, maintaining that the number of districts in the state had increased from 17 in 2013 to 22 currently, and also that the number of voters had increased in these 10 years.

The SEC counsel had submitted that 271 officers of the West Bengal civil service and 22 IAS officers have been appointed as observers.

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The joint action committee had been on a sit-in near Sahid Minar for over 130 days to press for their demand for a hike in Dearness Allowance of state government employees in commensurate with the DA of their counterparts at the Centre.

Reacting to the demand of the forum for the deployment of central forces, TMC state spokesperson Joy Prakash Majumdar said the employees should not speak in the language of political party activists while performing the duties of state government.

“These agitating employees should decide whether they should introduce themselves as political party activists first if they end up echoing political demands of CPI(M) and BJP or act as state government employees,” Majumdar told reporters.

He said the authorities will certainly look into the safety issue of the polling personnel as voting will be underway.

BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar said the demand of the state employees was “justified as the state police has failed” to contain violence by ruling TMC activists ahead of the panchayat polls.

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